Software

How to configure OS X language and region settings

Macs natively support multiple languages and locales. Here's how to adjust OS X's language and region settings to meet specific needs.

Image: Jesus Vigo/TechRepublic

Many companies have employees who use multiple languages and work from different locales. OS X's Language & Region settings enable customizing language, region, calendar, keyboard, currency, measurement units, number formatting, and time formats to match the country from which the user is working.

Language & Region settings are located within OS X's System Preferences. Clicking the + icon found beneath the Preferred Languages window enables adding language packages to the Mac. Additional languages are listed individually, along with variations. For example, users can select Simplified Chinese or Traditional Chinese. When more than one language is listed, whichever language is dragged to the top of the Preferred Languages list serves as the primary language within OS X.

Alternatively, unused languages can be removed from a Mac to free disk space. Jesus Vigo's TechRepublic article on the subject, How to remove language localizations in OS X with Monolingual, walks you through the process.

Corresponding region, first day of the week, calendar, and time format configurations are all set using the accompanying drop-down boxes found in Language & Region. Regional settings are listed by country. Thus, if you wish to configure settings to match working from London or Sydney, you should select Europe, then United Kingdom or Oceania, then Australia, respectively.

SEE: OS X El Capitan: The smart person's guide

The Language & Region Advanced button opens general formatting, date, and time settings. From those tabs, users can customize specific formatting properties.

  • The General tab enables configuring the format language for dates, times and numbers, number separators (typically commas and periods), currencies, and measurement units.
  • The Dates tab enables specifying various data configurations, including date abbreviations and even such date elements as quarters.
  • The Times tab enables configuring various time formats, including short abbreviated presentations vs. full-time formatting.

The Language & Region menu displays samples for each of these settings. The sample entries automatically update within the window and as selections are adjusted using the corresponding menus.

Users can change keyboard configurations using the Keyboard Preferences button, which opens the Keyboard System Preferences to the Input Sources tab, which you can use to change the keyboard's country configuration. Click the + icon to access other languages, including Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish.

Note: You do not need to change keyboards in OS X if all you are seeking to do is access special letters and accents. Typing these diacritical marks, or special notations accompanying letters, such as acutes and graves, is possible following the steps described in my TechRepublic article How to employ OS X characters with diacritical marks.

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About Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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