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Multilanguage Support in Windows 2000 Professional

Win2K Pro provides several multilingual computing options

Technological advancements in the past decade have brought people together from around the world. As the Internet becomes a part of our daily lives, the distance between countries seems to be shrinking, and the need for better communication is greater than ever. Windows 2000 Professional's three versions—English Version, localized versions, and MultiLanguage Version—meet this need. All three versions provide document support (i.e., tools for displaying, inputting, editing, and printing documents) for more than 100 languages. MultiLanguage Version, which is available through Microsoft volume licensing programs, also provides multilingual user interface (UI) options for up to 24 languages. To help users create multilingual documents, Win2K Pro offers support for several specialized multilanguage tools and extends existing Character Map options. The right version for your organization depends on your needs.

English and Localized Versions
Win2K Pro is available in an English version, which uses an English-only UI, and in any of 23 non-English localized versions (e.g., Dutch, Japanese, French). Each localized version provides a UI in a specific language—for example, the Dutch localized version provides a UI in Dutch only.

Regardless of the UI language, each version offers document support (e.g., keyboard input options, special characters, date and time formats) for more than 100 languages, which ship standard with all Win2K Pro versions. You must install specific languages (i.e., languages other than the version/UI language) on the system before users can access support options for those languages.

You must install languages locally. Log on as an Administrator or a member of the Administrator's group; go to Start, Settings, Control Panel, Regional Options; and select the General tab, which Screen 1 shows. From the Your locale (location) drop-down list in the Settings for the current user section, you can choose a locale (e.g., Afrikaans, Farsi, Icelandic, Swahili) that is specific to the system's physical location. Applications that support international settings for numbers, currencies, dates, and times can customize these settings according to locale. In Language settings for the system, select the check boxes for the languages that you want to install. Win2K Pro's Multilingual API (MLAPI) handles keyboard input, text layouts, and fonts for different language versions within applications. For example, the MLAPI lets you display right-to-left text for Arabic or Hebrew. To change the reading order, right-click any toolbar option within a multilanguage-aware application, then select Right-to-left reading order. When you change the reading order to right-to-left, text automatically justifies on the right side of the screen.

The Numbers, Currency, Time, Date, and Input Locales tabs let you further customize the system. From the Input Locales tab, you can specify the input language (i.e., keyboard layout and Input Method Editor—IME) that you want the system to load automatically at startup. (Keep in mind that the available input locales depend on the language groups you've installed. Also, the input locale option differs from the locale specification on the General tab; the input locale controls keyboard layout, whereas the general locale specifies standard language-related formats for numbers, currencies, dates, and times.) As Screen 2 shows, I've loaded English, Italian, and Spanish input locales; I've selected English as the language that will load at startup. In the Hot keys for input locales section, you can see that the Left Alt+Shift key sequence lets me easily switch between input locales. (You can click Change Key Sequence to change the hot key to Ctrl+Shift, which is the only other sequence option.) By default, Win2K Pro selects the Enable indicator on taskbar check box. This option causes the input locale indicator, which is an icon displaying two letters (e.g., EN for English, IT for Italian, ES for Spanish), to appear on the taskbar of any Win2K multilanguage-aware program. You can click the indicator to cycle through available input locales. After you install additional languages, you must reboot the computer.

Win2K Pro online Help includes a Multilingual Document Consultant to help you solve problems related to creating, modifying, or viewing multilingual documents. To locate this consultant, run a search for multilingual in the online Help. As I write this article, not many tips are available in Multilingual Document Consultant; but as updates become available, you can download them from the Microsoft Web site (

MultiLanguage Version
Aside from the multilanguage input support that the English Version and localized versions offer, MultiLanguage Version also provides a multilanguage UI (including menus and Help files) that users and administrators can change, according to their needs. You can choose a UI that uses one of 24 languages, including Arabic, French, German, Hebrew, Japanese, and Korean. Without MultiLanguage Version, organizations that require UI support in more than one language must purchase a separate localized version for each language. Each localized version requires separate service packs, and administrators must take the time to perform multiple upgrades. With MultiLanguage Version, an international corporation can install one version worldwide, thus reducing total cost of ownership (TCO—imagine needing to test and apply only one service pack worldwide). And because MultiLanguage Version ties UIs to users' profiles, UIs travel with users as they log on to various workstations around a company's global network. Administrators can also use Group Policies to remotely control this version's language settings according to an organization's needs. To choose a UI language, select the desired language in the Menus and dialogs drop-down list on the Regional Options' General tab. (Win2K Pro automatically changes the UI and multilanguage-aware application reading order to right-to-left for languages such as Arabic or Hebrew.) MultiLanguage Version is available only through volume licensing programs (i.e., Microsoft Open License Program—MOLP, Microsoft Select Agreement, and Microsoft Enterprise Agreement).

Using the Input Locale Indicator
After you install and enable multiple input languages, users can compose a multilingual document in any multilanguage-aware application. Imagine that a user wants to create a document that includes both English and Italian. The user can begin the document in English, then click the taskbar's input locale indicator (or use the Left Alt+Shift hot key) to switch to Italian. Win2K Pro then makes the Italian character set and keyboard layout available. The user can continue composing the document in Italian and use the indicator or the hot key to switch back and forth between available locales.

Users must save multilingual documents in Unicode format. Otherwise, applications will replace multilanguage characters with question marks. (Unicode is an international standard that Microsoft uses for Win2K Pro's base character encoding.) Users can share the document with one another, but their computers must have the same installed languages, and users who have an OS other than Win2K Pro might not be able to read the document.

If users want to create a multilingual document in a program that isn't multilanguage-aware, they can create the document in WordPad or Notepad, then copy the text into the original program. Win2K Pro Help clearly states that Notepad isn't multilanguage-aware, but I had no trouble formatting and saving multilanguage documents in Win2K Notepad. (However, I've installed Microsoft Office 2000, which adds multilanguage features that might affect Notepad's capabilities.) In Notepad, the Save As dialog box contains an Encoding option that lets users save text documents as Unicode. If users forget to select this option, they receive the following warning: This file contains characters in Unicode format which will be lost if you save this file as a text document. To keep the Unicode information, select the Unicode encoding in the Save As dialog box.

Using Special Characters
Win2K Pro provides several new tools (and new options for existing tools) for including special characters in documents. In combination with Win2K Pro's multilanguage abilities, these special characters let users create a variety of multilingual text in any multilanguage-aware application.

Using the Character Map. In addition to 128 standard ASCII characters, the Win2K Pro Character Map offers extended and international characters and new Character Map options that complement Win2K Pro's multilanguage features. From the Win2K Pro desktop, users can access the Character Map through Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, then copy any character and paste it into a document. (The characters appear rather small onscreen; for a magnified view, which Screen 3 shows, move the cursor over the Character Map, click an icon, then hold down the left mouse button while moving the cursor over the symbols.) When users select the Advanced view check box, they can try various character sets (e.g., Unicode, Greek, Turkish) within each font. Users can also select different grouping options in the Group by drop-down list. If the standard Character Map choices aren't enough, users can access Win2K Pro's Private Character Editor (PCE) to design characters. PCE lets users draw logos or special characters and link them to a font library for future use. To access PCE, users must open a DOS window, then from the command line type


Typing characters that aren't on the keyboard. As an alternative to using the Character Map, users can hold down the Alt key and press a four-digit combination of numbers on the keyboard's numeric keypad to type a character's or symbol's decimal code value. The first digit is 0, which the input locale recognizes as a code point. The remaining three digits are numerals from 1 to 9, which the input locale recognizes as a code point in the system's OEM code page according to the locales that you've loaded in Regional Options. For example, if the selected input locale is English (United States), pressing ALT+0169 produces the copyright symbol (©). Table 1, page 4, shows some common symbols and their decimal values. (Highlighting a symbol in the Character Map yields its decimal value at the bottom right of the Character Map window, as Screen 3 shows).

Using an IME. An IME is an application that lets users include Asian text in documents. Each Asian language requires a specific IME (e.g., to enter Japanese text, use the Japanese IME). All versions of Win2K Pro include Microsoft IME 2000 for each Asian language. (A Global IME is also available. However, not all programs support the Global IME, and many developers consider it to be less reliable than standard IMEs.) When you install and select an Asian language, an IME toolbar will automatically appear on the Win2K Pro desktop. Users can click the IME Pad icon on the toolbar to access a Soft Keyboard to enter the Asian language text, which Screen 4 shows. An HTML Help window provides assistance in the IME language. Users can also configure numerous options on the IME Properties sheet, which Screen 5 shows.

The Right Choice
Which version of Win2K Pro is appropriate for your organization? The answer depends on your corporation's needs. Organizations that require an English UI but that want to create and display documents in additional languages are good candidates for the English Version. For example, a US corporation with a branch office in Montreal can use this version, which has an English UI. Montreal employees, who might need to communicate with French-speaking customers, can create documents in French, even though the UI is in English.

For companies that use a primary language other than English, a localized version of Win2K Pro is a good idea. For example, an organization in the Netherlands requires a Dutch UI and can use the Dutch localized version. If the company occasionally receives Japanese or Korean documents from their customers, employees can still easily display, edit, and print those documents.

MultiLanguage Version is the best choice for an international organization with employees who might need UIs in several languages and want to switch the UI from one language to another. Companies can use the same service pack to update systems in several countries, and users traveling to an office in another country can switch at any time to the UI language of their choice. In addition, these users can create, modify, and view documents in the hundreds of languages that all Win2K Pro versions support.

Win2K Pro's multilanguage features can facilitate document sharing among multilingual employees and help reduce international corporations' TCO. Whichever version you choose, Win2K Pro puts a world of communication possibilities at your fingertips.

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