Apple does not mirror their user interfaces for right-to-left languages (Arabic, Hebrew). Text and is often mirrored, but not always like controller labels.

As I understand it, right-to-left users scan visually right-to-left so it makes sense to place the most important controllers where they would look first. Hence the concept of mirroring the left-to-right user interface.

But the only application I have found that does a complete UI on Mac is Firefox.

What do users expect? Would an application provide a better experience to the user by mirroring? Even when the default applications do not.

As far as I can tell, the Apple HIG does not even mention this.

  • Trying to figure out the question here
    – Mervin
    Aug 28, 2013 at 14:00

1 Answer 1


Your question really hinges on two things: 1. What level of exposure have your users had to the conventional schema (i.e., left-to-right) 2. Are you breaking your users' expectations by deviating from the norm.

The first point is probably most readily highlighted by the QWERTY vs. DVORAK keyboard problem. If you were to introduce a new user to a DVORAK keyboard then they'd assimilate the use of this more efficient tool for their purposes. However, introducing that same keyboard (without a QWERTY alternative) to an already established QWERTY user will result in, at best irritation and, at worst rejection.

It's not always about what is more naturally intuitive, most often it's about what the user is already familiar with. So while a user's language may be read right-to-left, their experience using particular tools (such as the command line) are likely to be firmly established as left-to-right.

So to the second point; know your target audience. Are they likely to have already assimilated a conventional (albeit initially alien) pattern or use, or are they likely to be unfamiliar with the environment you're delivering your product in and therefore likely to benefit from an adherence to an approach that mimics external patterns of familiarity?

Based on your citation of OS X, I'd assume that you're targeting users that are already being forced to accept the conventional pattern and you may risk more than you stand to gain by breaking that pattern.

Context is important.

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