This paper proposes an online video-based approach to handwritten Arabic alphabet recognition. Various temporal and spatial feature extraction techniques are introduced. The motion information of the hand movement is projected onto two static accumulated difference images according to the motion directionality. The temporal analysis is followed by two-dimensional discrete cosine transform and Zonal coding or Radon transformation and low pass filtering. The resulting feature vectors are time-independent thus can be classified by a simple classification technique such as K Nearest Neighbor (KNN). The solution is further enhanced by introducing the notion of superclasses where similar classes are grouped together for the purpose of multiresolutional classification. Experimental results indicate an impressive 99% recognition rate on user-dependant mode. To validate the proposed technique, we have conducted a series of experiments using Hidden Markov models (HMM), which is the classical way of classifying data with temporal dependencies. Experimental results revealed that the proposed feature extraction scheme combined with simple KNN yields superior results to those obtained by the classical HMM-based scheme. © 2008 The Franklin Institute.