Aug 222011

Another new feature in Mac OS 10.7 “Lion” is support for vertical text (竖排 / 豎排 / shùpái), that is, text running from the top of the page to the bottom. (Lion’s Chinese text-to-speech feature was discussed here.) Chinese was traditionally written vertically (see this Wikipedia article), as in the image below. You can see 三字經  (三字经 Sān Zì Jīng or “Three-Character Classic”)  at the upper right of the page.

Handwritten San Zi Jing

San Zi Jing (Image from the National Library of Australia)

Vertical text is dead simple to implement in TextEdit (which is included with the OS): just go to the menubar and choose Format > Make Layout Vertical. The text will begin at the right side of the page and run from top to bottom.

Below is a screenshot of some of the San Zi Jing in TextEdit. In this case, I began with the traditional version, so it runs from the top right down to yì. After the gap, the simplified version begins and runs to the corresponding yì.

Vertically aligned text in TextEdit

Support for vertical text in the OS does not mean that every app will be able to take advantage of it (remember how long Mac OS X supported Unicode before any of the big apps like Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign did?). Right now, TextEdit is the most accessible, but see this useful [chinese mac] page.

If you want to read more of the San Zi Jing, Wengu has an online version viewable in either vertical or horizontal format (with pop-up vocabulary help and translations into English and French). Or listen to it read aloud here (Flash required. Also includes the text in simplified characters, pinyin, and English).

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OS X Lion - Apple®

  One Response to “Vertical text in Mac OS 10.7 Lion”

  1. Thank you so much! Super helpful.

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