Configuring Windows 2000 multiple language support

Working in an international environment? You can set up Windows 2000 to easily switch between languages. In this Daily Feature, Tom Shinder shows you how to use Win2K to write in many tongues.

Windows 2000, thanks to its support for multiple languages, can be deployed by international businesses. Using multiple language support, employees can temporarily switch system settings to create documents in another language. In this Daily Feature, I’ll discuss how you can set up these multiple language features.

Letters to numbers
Until recently, the two primary methods of encoding language characters into binary form were the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) and the Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code (EBCDIC). These encoding systems are still being used. A 7-bit code, ASCII allows for a total of 128 characters. Using ASCII provides more than enough address space to assign a value to each uppercase and lowercase letter in the alphabet. There is even extra room for a variety of punctuation marks and special characters.

EBCDIC is an 8-bit code and therefore allows for up to 256 characters. With the extended address space provided by an 8-bit code, twice as many characters can be included as with ASCII. Not only can all the letters and numbers in a language be encoded into binary format, but many extra punctuation marks and symbols can be included.

These systems work great when English is the language, but we run into problems when trying to extend the reach of these code pages to other languages. Other Romance languages, such as French and Spanish, have extra characters (accents, for example). While the existing code pages could support these extra characters, some characters or symbols might have to be dropped to make room for them.

The problem becomes even more profound for languages such as Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, or Chinese, which have completely different character systems. These other languages cannot use ASCII or EBCDIC. Though computer scientists have created code pages or character sets for other languages, it’s still difficult for operating systems designed to run a single language to communicate with systems using other languages.

Unicode to the rescue
To make it possible for users who want to communicate in more than one language to do so within an operating system, the Unicode character set was created. Also known as ISO 10646, this 16-bit character set supports up to 65,536 characters. Unicode has more than enough room for most major languages. A newer version of Unicode (version 3.1) uses three encoding systems to support up to a million more characters. Currently, version 3.1 encodes 94,140 characters, with much room for expansion. You can read more about Unicode here.

Windows 2000 uses Unicode as its default character set. Because it uses Unicode, Windows 2000 can support communications between computers using multiple languages. This allows a user with an English version of Windows 2000 to write in the native language of another user. For example, an English user could write in Arabic and the text would be displayed properly to a user who installed an Arabic language version of Windows 2000. The English version user would be able to use the national conventions of the other user, such as those for monetary symbols, punctuation, and dates, to name a few.

Supporting multiple languages with Windows 2000
There are two ways in which Windows 2000 can support multiple languages:
  • Localized versions of the operating system
  • Regional Settings (also called Locales) within a localized version

Localized versions
In localized versions of Windows 2000, the interface uses the language of the version installed. For example, installing the German version of Windows 2000 creates all the dialog boxes, alerts, help files, and other language elements in German. When Windows 2000 was released, it contained 24 localized versions. There is even a MultiLanguage Version available to corporations and developers so that they can choose which localized version to install from a single CD.

After installing a localized version, the next step is to configure Regional Settings. By configuring these settings, users can interact with Windows 2000 in their own language and also work with other languages they select.

Locale Settings
Windows 2000 Locale Settings allow you to configure the computer to support language fonts and formats to support world locales other than the machine’s primary language locale.

There are three Locale Settings:
  • User Locales
  • Input Locales
  • System Locales

Let’s take a closer look at each one of these settings.

Setting User Locale
User Locale settings determine the formatting of time, currency, numbers, and dates on a per-user basis. The configuration settings for User Locales are determined by the Your Locale (Location) drop-down menu in the Regional Options dialog box, as shown in Figure A. The Regional Options applet can be accessed via the Control Panel.

Figure A
Use the Regional Options dialog box to set Locales for your system.

Whenever you switch Locale, the number, currency, time, and date formats used in your programs change. Note that changing User Locale settings doesn’t change the font to another language. For example, if you created a document in English, and then changed the User Locale to German (Luxembourg), the number, currency, time, and date styles would change in all your documents, but they would still be in English. For font changes, you use Input Locale settings. You do not need to restart the computer to change a User Locale.

Setting Input Locale
Input Locale settings determine the input language and input method used by the computer. For example, suppose you want to type a message in French. First, you would change the Input Language to French, and then you would change the keyboard layout to support that language.

The Input Locale should be changed when you change the system settings to support another language font. The Input Locales tab in the Regional Settings dialog box houses the input language and keyboard layout options, as well as several others, such as hotkeys you can use to switch between Input Locales, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B
Set language input and keyboard layouts using the Input Locales tab in the Regional Settings dialog box.

Note that input methods supported by Input Locales are not limited to keyboard arrangements. The Input Method Editor (IME) is a software interface that allows multiple input methods to be used by Windows 2000. For example, you could use an input method such as a speech-to-text engine. The engine would use the fonts of the language you set for the system. You do not need to restart the computer when changing Input Locales.

Adding languages
In order to support different language formats, you must install additional languages to the system. These Language Settings For The System are located in the General tab of the Regional Options dialog box (see Figure C).

Figure C
You’ll need to add all the languages you plan to use in the Language Settings For The System option.

The installed languages are indicated by a check mark. To install a language, click its check box and then click the Apply button. You’ll be asked for the Windows 2000 CD-ROM. After Windows installs the character sets and supporting files, you will be asked to restart your computer.

Using different languages
Let’s look at an example of changing language settings. Suppose you want to e-mail someone in his or her native language. In this example, we are using the English (United States) User Locale on a US English Localized version of Windows 2000. To write the e-mail, we’ll open Outlook Express and click the New Mail icon. Figure D shows our arrangement.

Figure D
Use Outlook Express and the Language Options menu to write a message in another language.

Note that we have clicked on the Indicator in the system tray. Once they’re configured, you can use the Indicator to quickly change language settings without restarting the computer. In this case, the pointer shows that German (Luxembourg) – German is the current language setting. I changed the setting to Arabic (Egypt) – Arabic (101) and typed my message. The result is shown in Figure E.

Figure E.
This e-mail was typed using the Arabic language setting.

After changing language settings, all the typed text uses the characters from the chosen language. Changing the language setting does not change the user interface, however. The menus and dialog boxes are still in the language of the localized version installed on the computer. Note that the Arabic title bar in Figure E is not due to an interface change. When you type a message in Outlook Express, the subject line contents are placed in the title bar.

In this example, I typed the To: address field in the other language. However, if my mail server and mail software don’t understand this language, they will not be able to forward the mail. In this instance, I would have to return to the English language settings to type in the e-mail address and then change to the other language to type the text of the message.

Although we are able to use the characters of another language, don’t you wish the system could actually translate what you write into another language? Maybe future operating systems will support this feature, but right now, you’ll still have to understand foreign languages.

Windows 2000 supports multiple languages and language formats through its multiple language configuration settings. Windows 2000 uses the Unicode character set and has the capability to support virtually any language. By setting User Locales, Input Locales, and System Locales, you can work with other languages, making Windows 2000 a productive tool for the international business world.
The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.

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