Published on April 12, 2004

Pre-OS 9

Installing Unicode without Apple Language Kit


This page describes procedures for installing Unicode onto a Macintosh computer with operating systems 7.6.1 to 8.6. It has the advantage to enable both Unicode writing and writing in other encodings, such as East European and Cyrillic. In fact, Unicode appears as a by-product of other languages.

Target group

Language: West European languages
Geography: in West Europe, the Americas and Sub-Saharan Africa
Work: working with Cyrillics and other languages of East & South East Europe on a professional level: students, professors, translators
IT knowledge: medium knowledge (secondarily beginners, computer dummies, as well as routined and advanced users)
Operating systems: Macintosh Operating Systems 7.6.1, 8.0, 8.1, 8.5.x, 8.6
Wallet size: empty


Just before I switch to Mac OS X for good, there is a trick I must convey, since I know that some guys still use pre-OS 9 systems out there. I love those old Macintosh Operating Systems. They can do more than you believe. They can also write Unicode, if you force them to. As a Westerner, I once had the need to have a partition with Mac OS 8.6 in my native Danish, but likewise to be able to write text in Cyrillics in a way that would be readable in other OS-es. As side effects I got Unicode facility and enabled my Internet Explorer to read all the Cyrillics and Central European I ever dreamt of.

What is Unicode?

Unicode, a contraction of Universal Encoding, is a way to generate text on a computer by using a universal system, in which every sign of every existing language has a corresponding code. Unicode has several versions; one uses a combination of a hyphen and another character of the keyboard, another is decimal, or even hexadecimal, that assigns a number to every character. The decimal versions are better, because they can be extended ad infinitum when the Unicode consortium adds more alphabets and languages to its definition lists. However, it will increase your file sizes two or three times when compared to the simple Unicode.

Hardware prerequisites

  • A Macintosh computer running System 7.6.1, 8.0, 8.1, 8.5.x or 8.6.
  • A CD-ROM drive attached to your Macintosh (internal or external)
  • Approximately 10 MB of available harddisk space.

Software prerequisites
The Apple Macintosh Operating System Installation CD-ROM for your corresponding system (if you upgraded, you can still trick the systems, i.e., use the OS 8.0 Installation CD-ROM for 8.1, and the OS 8.5.x CD-ROM for OS 8.6).

If you want to work with languages of the European Orient, you should have East European fonts complying with the Macintosh standard. Examples for Cyrillics:

  • Apple Cyrillic system fonts (compulsory): At least one of these:
    1. Russian System Fonts for OS 7 (may be written in Cyrillics; available at
      • ARSKurier (a Courier clone),
      • Bastion (sens-serif),
      •  Latinskij (a Times clone), 
      • Prjamoj, 
      • Prjamoj Prop (both Prjamojs, also spelled Priamoj, render Geneva), and 
      • Sistemnyj (Chicago);
    2. later fonts (introduced in OS 8.x, supplied with the Mac OS 9.1 Installation CD-ROM):
      • Charcoal CY,
      • Geneva CY, 
      • Helvetica CY, 
      • Monaco CY, 
      • Times CY.
  • ER-fonts (optional):
    • ER Bukinist Macintosh (a Bookman clone),
    • ER Univers Macintosh (a Helvetica clone)
  • C&G fonts (optional):
    • Bodoni Cyrillic FAF,
    • GlasnostDemiboldFAF, 
    • GlasnostExtraBoldFAF, 
    • GlasnostLightFAF, 
    • MurmanskFAF, 
    • OdessaScriptFAF, 
    • SvobodaFAF, 
    • VremyaFAF (a Times clone)

Examples for Central European (Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Slovak).

Apple System fonts (at least one of these):

  • Charcoal CE
  • Chicago CE
  • Courier CE
  • Geneva CE
  • Helvetica CE
  • Monaco CE
  • Times CE

Other requirements ("a good friend") will be listed in the individual chapters.

Why should you install Unicode?

From a first glance, you might not feel the need for Unicode at all. This is true, if all the texts you write and read are printed. However, most computer users of the 21st century have the need to exchange digitised versions of their documents in forms of files on portable meadia like floppy disks, or e-mail attachments, or texts available on networks (intranets and internets). This is where Unicode becomes advantageous, especially if you try to exchange texts in Cyrillics or Central European languages. There are also beneficial side effects for the Macintosh user: All of a sudden, Microsoft Internet Explorer (versions 4.5 - 5.1) can display Cyrillic and Central European web pages correctly instead of interrogative signs, and you can write to virtually anybody in the East without resorting to print-outs.

And it goes on: Ever more people, especially in countries outside the Western world, produce Unicode texts by default. Mac OS X is Unicode native.

Apple's mistake

One of Apple's mistakes was that they did not include Unicode and other East European encodings when they shipped System 7 back in 1991. You would have to buy Apple Language Kit separately, which was not what every student of Eastern European languages could afford after having spent all his resources on his new Macintosh. The language kit would fix all the trouble that arose (now in the second half of the 1990s) once you tried to e-mail texts in East European languages to a Windows user.

This misjudgement of the future of text exchange proved crucial to Apple. It is my observation that exactly this was the reason why many East European Macintosh users as well as Western users with the need to work with East European languages switched to Windows PCs, because Microsoft offered all this in its standard Windows 95 installation. No extra shopping in the computer store needed. Most of the market was in the USA those days. While looking beyond the US borders, Apple was focusing on areas with speakers of Chinese, Japanese, Farsi, Urdu, Ghujarati, all of which had not been standardised by other software providers prior to Apple. When Macintosh Operating System 9 shipped in about 1999, the language kit was included on the Installation CD-ROM, but it was too late to catch up with the Windows foothold already established in Russia and other countries of Eastern Europe.


  1. Insert your Macintosh OS Installation CD-ROM into your drive.
  2. Open Apple Menu : Control Panels : Startup Disk.
  3. Select the Macintosh OS Installation CD-ROM as your startup volume.
  4. Restart.
  5. Start the Mac OS Installation program. Run it as you would do normally until you arrive at the installation window.
  6. When prompted, select Special Installation.
  7. Browse down to the Additional Language Scripts section. Open to specify your wishes.
  8. Select any language script. When I did it, Hebrew and Arabic were my choices. I uninstalled them later.
  9. Click OK to install them. Make sure that you do not install any additional software.
  10. Restart when prompted.

You will notice the icons of the corresponding language scripts appearing, while the computer is booting the extensions. You can uninstall them using the control panel Extensions Manager. Unicode is now installed as a side effect of having several language scripts in your system folder.

If it was not present before, a small flag icon appears in the top right area of the Menu bar. It indicates the keyboard you are using. Clicking it will reveal all available keyboard layouts, divided by language scripts. In more recent operating systems, there are short-cuts to switch the language scripts and their keyboard layouts.

Не имей сту рублей, а имей сто друзей (Russian proverb)

Cyrillic Instruction for System 7.1 To enable writing and operating in, e.g., Cyrillics, you will need a corresponding Cyrillic language instruction and at least one keyboard layout. Since Apple and its authorised dealers do not ship them for Classic Macintosh systems any longer, you will have to resort to piracy (i.e., get it from a friend). Its icon is depicted to the right. Dump it onto the System Folder.

The standard keyboard layouts come with the names of the corresponding languages, e.g., Russian, Serbian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, or in combination, like Russian Translitterated, Apple Cyrillics, Bulgarian Powerbook. Dump them unto the System Folder.

Not all text processors are Unicode ready. You can, however, use Netscape's or Mozilla's built-in HTML editor to produce Unicoded text in forms of HTML documents. An e-mail client like Microsoft Outlook Express can also do Unicode.

Links: Apple | Microsoft | Mozilla | Netscape |

All reference to profit and non-profit organisations above is deliberate and not sponsored.
This page was constructed April 12, 2004.
Last update: April 12, 2004
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