Firefox for Linux – Urdu Font Rendering

Finally, I found the solution to the Firefox Urdu Font related bug in Dapper. Me, the newbie, the linux illiterate who didn’t even know Tux; I solved a bug in an open source software that I am using on my open source operating system.

After upgrading to Dapper, I found that Firefox in Dapper does not render Urdu fonts properly. Since I spend a lot of time reading Urdu blogs and news sites, it was a major issue. It even forced me to install Konqueror, Galeon, Epiphany, Swiftfox, Firefox’s mozilla built. I spent many hours reading bug reports, comments on the bug reports, following different forum discussions and sharing my problem with users on all these platforms. I tried many solutions none of them worked out. On my way I found that several other people using different Linux distros were facing the same problem.

Then finally I found a discussion where some users were suggesting that Pango support should be disabled for Firefox. They suggested eachother to add MOZ_DISABLE_PANGO=1 line in /etc/environment file. I tried this solution but it didn’t work. Then I tried MOZ_DISABLE_PANGO=0 and bingo!

Now I can read Urdu web pages and firefox renders these web pages perfectly displaying Urdu fonts beautifully even better than the Firefox and Internet Explorer on Windows.

I am not sure about what was really wrong with Firefox but I guess that Ubuntu Dapper has pango support enabled for selective locales only. Firefox didn’t render Urdu fonts using Pango. I am not sure about this and would be grateful if someone confirms this to me.

The moral of story is that my Ubuntu Linux is very powerful and using it I can do whatever I want. You the windows user? Can you do this with your Windows?

Published by Noumaan Yaqoob

I am a full-time WordPress blogger, I write tutorials about using WordPress, WordPress themes and plugins. Need help with your website? Feel free to contact me.


  1. Babar,

    In most cases you need only two things to get started in Urdu quickly:

    1. language-support-ur package which you can download or upgrade via synaptic. I think you already have it installed.
    2. Then you need fonts.

    Remember the firefox problem we have discussed only renders font badly but it doesn’t display boxes with numbers.So most probably you dont have fonts installed correctly. Ubuntu Wiki has a detailed font install page.

  2. It did not worked for me also last time when i did it. its solution is to use Konquerer or Galeon. Galeon is perfact solution in case of Ubuntu it is Gnome’s web browser and have all abilities as Firefox has urdu font rendering is ok in it.(This is my personal experience and worked in Dapper perfectly when i was an Ubuntu user now prefer Kubuntu).

  3. Wslam Babar,

    Did you install Urdu fonts. You would need Nafees Web Naskh, Urdu Naskh Asiatype and if you don’t mind using microsoft fonts then Tahoma is useful too. In order to display the fonts correctly in Firefox you would need to enable pango for it, to do this open /etc/environment in text editor with super user rights and add the following line:

    Save, exit and restart.

    Please let me know if this solved your problem.

  4. Salam Nauman

    Was trying to look for your mobile number:) We are busy migrating an NGO in Quetta to Ubuntu Linux. They need urdu support. I have installed urdu Lanuguage Support but both in firefox and openoffice (after enabling input method to urdu) it shows square boxes with numbers in urdu text.

    Any suggestions?

    Babar Haq

  5. Sajid Pango is a font rendering engine. Firefox in Ubuntu does not use Pango to render fonts because Pango would slow it down. Even though firefox renders Urdu text in a readable way but it does not display popular Urdu fonts. So one need to choose between Font rendering or a Slower firefox.

  6. Dear Touseef,

    Since Windows is a closed platform it is trivial to find out what’s disturbing there. Unlike Ubuntu GNU/Linux where a non-expert like me can trace the cause of problem due to the open steps in development and bug tracking processes.

  7. Urdu font problem in Firefox is hurting a lot of people in Windows XP too. Do you have any solution for XP users. I know you dont like windows. But anyway?

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