Proposal for Arabic font improvement: Switch from Noto-Sans-Arabic to Noto-Nask-Arabic

Proposal: improve fedora Arabic font by switching to Noto-Naskh instead of Noto-Sans.

Background: All Linux distros have always had terrible Arabic fonts. Fortunately that changed with fedora switching to Noto family by default. Noto arabic family contains Noto-Sans-Arabic and Noto-Naskh-Arabic. The current fedora default for arabic is the Noto-Sans-Arabic since it’s the obvious choice as it was designated as Sans by google noto team. However the concept of Sans/Serif in topography has little meaning in Arabic typography/Calligraphy and is definitely a foreign concept to Arabic typography.

In Arabic typography, the Naskh style is the dominant style across all media of text. Books, Textbooks, Official documents, Newspapers, and MOST IMPORTANTLY: Arabic texts in virtually all common operating systems (Android, Windows, mac os, iOS[*]) is rendered with some variation of the Naskh style of Arabic calligraphy.

[*]: iOS seems to use a mix of naskh and sans-like fonts, which TBH looks terrible and bold-ed

The Problem: Noto-Sans-Arabic doesn’t look right at all for reading content on the screen. The style is not ideal for regular reading as everyone speaking Arabic is most familiar with naskh style and not whatever the Noto-Sans is trying to be. While it’s difficult to point out exactly the problem with the noto-sans-arabic, best way I would describe it to non-arabic speaker is that it has Comic Sans vibe to it that makes it looks very unprofessional. I briefly discussed the problem with Akira TAGOH before as he was the owner of the change page. Thanks to him Noto-Naskh-Arabic was added as fallback when noto-sans-arabic is not available. The Noto-Sans remained the default since it’s the safer choice as google released it as “sans” font for Arabic. However, even though google created noto family and designated the fonts as sans/naskh, they don’t use noto-sans-arabic in place of sans font in their commercial products (Android OS for exmpale), instead they use… wait for it ………… yes, Noto-Naskh-Arabic as the default Arabic font for everything in android and their other products (with the exception of chromeos which is non-existant in the arabian region). I choose android as am example for two reasons, 1. It’s business critical to google in the arabian region, 2. Both noto fonts and android made by google and the fonts are integrated by default in the OS yet they choose noto-naskh-arabic in place of sans.

I admit, Noto-Sans-Arabic, style wise, doesn’t stray much from traditional naskh style, but the main problem with it it looks very cartoony compared to most naskh style fonts.

Noto-Naskh-Arabic may have some disadvantage on lower resolution / smaller screens as it’s thinner and in genereal to looks smaller (see pic).

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Thanks for the post - I feel we need more input around this.
Does it depend on the country or personal preference?

I think the status quo in Fedora for Arabic (:lang=ar) is that we currently have:

(though langpacks-ar may also affect this at least for mono).

Btw how does Noto Sans Arabic compare with Dejavu Sans (Arabic)?

I think Serif style fonts are generically considered more readable than Sans.

Welcome more discussion on this and hope we can have a good consensus.

Does it depend on the country or personal preference?

Naskh style is universally used in all arabic countries so I don’t think there is a country preference differences.
Yes I do admit that my suggestion of defaulting to naksh instead of sans is biased by my personal preference as I find it difficulut to present to you “objective evidence” that prove naskh’s “superioirty”. So i’m wishing for discussion from native arabic speakers.

Yes is think this is the current config.

Btw how does Noto Sans Arabic compare with Dejavu Sans (Arabic)?

Dejavu Sans for arabic was revolting to say the least espically when bolded, I can’t overestimate how bad it was. The fedora switch to noto-sans-arabic in fedora36 was an enormous improvement over dejavu. Simply going from dejavu to Noto-Sans arabic I would say already won 90% of the battle.

BTW, currently there is a bug that causes firefox to use Dejavu Sans instead of noto-sans for arabic fonts when Dejavu is installed as a package which confused be but appereantly installing VLC caused dejavu to be installed as dependency. Not sure if it affect other programs other than firefox. I mentioned it here yesterday But I don’t think that htread is being followed as it’s old.

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I think you can also try to configure your Firefox to prefer Noto Naskh Arabic in its Advanced font settings (Preferences > General > Fonts > Advanced…) for Arabic.

I am a native Arabic speaker and would be happy to participate in this and future discussions on Arabic fonts in Fedora Workstation.

I agree with @alawamiaz in that the switch from DejaVu Arabic to Noto Sans Arabic already, in his words, “won 90% of the battle”. DejaVu is an exceptionally bad font for Arabic, and Noto is actually the font that I only recently was recommending a video game developer use for public marketing materials in Arabic.

Regarding the switch from Noto Sans Arabic to Noto Naskh Arabic: Naskh is just the Arabic equivalent of “Serif”. Serif fonts are not appropriate for the places where Noto Sans is used (system font, etc.) and as such I wouldn’t recommend switching to it. Noto Sans Arabic has characters that are closer to one another in width, etc. it does not at all have a “Comic Sans vibe” as @alawamiaz claims. On the contrary, the characters are much more evenly spaced and sized than the Naskh Serif equivalent.

Noto Naskh is more appropriate for long-form written text, or anywhere you’d use Serif fonts in Latin alphabet languages, really.

Furthermore, the claims of “Naskh style being the standard” are in my view a bit overblown and in any case not a strong argument – even if they were, shouldn’t we still critically evaluate the suitability of the font instead of blindly following some majority (which I suspect is vulnerable to confirmation bias anyhow?)

As such I do not support switching from Noto Naskh to Noto Sans in the system. The configuration should remain:

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