Let me summarize in a few words only : forget it outside of a Windows or Linux VM.

My dad is a yiddish teacher, senior level. That implies he has to edit yiddish texts full of hebrew words, and a few latin1 prose. He needs excellent bidi support, columns, full support of all hebraic diacritics, nice looking fonts (like David on Windows), superior printing. He also needs a keyboard layout specially made for typing yiddish on a Mac AZERTY (french) keyboard. I made on using Ukelele. It uses unicode chars in ranges 0590-05F2, FB1F-FB1F, FB2A-FB4F plus a few needed ASCII stuff.

  • iWork 09's Pages just sucks. Totally. It's amazing how lame at I18N it is and how Apple has been unresponsive to the hundreds of user feedback in the last 5 years. Impossible to declare a rtl document and here's what Pages shows when I type my name in yiddish, so " דאַניעל גלאַזמאַנ "(BTW, Firefox on Mac sucks on that, the two words are inverted despite a bidi override ! Safari is OK, all browsers in Windows are OK).

    Daniel Glazman in Yiddish, iWork'09

  • Microsoft Office for Mac is not better... It can do vertical text but not rtl ! Its handling of hebraic diacritics is lame and whitespace is always considered ltr even if the keyboard is in a rtl language. In the screenshot below, and if you except the fact the diacritics are badly placed, it read glazman daniel instead of daniel glazman.

    Daniel Glazman in Yiddish, Word for Mac

  • As I said in the past, OpenOffice for OS X is the best option here: it can do rtl, columns, and is globally superior to competitors, no question on that. But it's far from perfect because it can mess up documents with columns in DOC format and worse it can lose some character styles (bold or italic for instance) :-( I tried font substitution but it did not help because no font on OS X is perfect to the point you can safely forget about bugs.
  • I even bought Mellel. With Mellel, I discovered that even a font provided by Apple is not reliable. See below a pasekh-aleph (FB2E) on the left hand side and an aleph with pasekh (05D0+05B7) on the right hand side... Mellel is not guilty here, it's Mac OS X, its fonts and its font support. Mellel is definitely the best solution (with OOo) for editing new rtl text on a Mac. But if you want to edit existing DOC or RTF documents that use italic and/or columns, you may end up with very strange results or worse, uneditable results. All in all, the cost of tweaking again inside Mellel a document created in WinWord can be prohibitive...

    two pasekh alephs, OOo

  • Using a Windows font on Mac like the David one can be, well, surprising. It works usually much better on Windows ! Forget it. As I said above, even fonts provided by OS X itself suck. See below the pasekh aleph (too high !) being here FB2E and not 05D0+05B7...

    Daniel Glazman in Yiddish, OOo

    A vav with dagesh is even more surprising:

    vav with dagesh, OOo

    It's a pity but the hebrew fonts on Mac are not usable in a serious environment, period.

In the end, I gave up. My dad now runs a Windows VM on his MacBookPro and uses MS Office. The speed is absolutely acceptable, thanks to the last MBPs and the most recent VM packages. The David fonts are superb for his work and there is no visual difference between "chars with a diacritic in two glyphs" and "chars with a diacritic in one glyph". The diacritics are perfectly handled. Printing is as usual superb. Compatibility is of course not an issue any more. So I downloaded the MS Keyboard Layout Creator and made a yiddish layout for french MBP keyboard...

It's sad. I am really disappointed to discover how bad Apple is at handling hebrew and arabic in an editor. Microsoft spent tons of time improving its internationalized text support in all its tools, and only improves the stylistic thingies now. I perfectly understand why. If you can't even edit or render correctly a given script, what's the point being able to draw a border-image around it anyway?