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NLS Sorting Changes

Affected Platforms

Clients - Windows XP | Windows Vista | Windows 7
Servers - Windows Server 2003 | Windows Server 2008 | Windows Server 2008 R2

Feature Impact

Severity - High
Frequency - Low (few apps impacted, but if impacted, always broken)

Description

The National Language Support (NLS) functions help applications support the different language- and locale-specific needs of users around the world. New Windows versions almost invariably include NLS changes. This change affects collation and sorting, and therefore applications that have persistent indexes.

A collation table has two numbers that identify its version (revision): the defined version and the NLS version. Both versions are DWORD values, composed of a major version and a minor version. The first byte of a value is reserved, the next two bytes represent the major version, and the last byte represents the minor version. In hexadecimal terms, the pattern is 0xRRMMMMmm, where R equals Reserved, M equals major, and m equals minor. For example, a major version of 3 with a minor version of 4 is represented as 0x304.

For a major version, one or more code points change so that the application must re-index all data for comparisons to be valid. For a minor version, nothing moves, but code points are added. For this type of version, the application only has to re-index strings with previously unsortable values. In summary, here is what the version numbers mean in relation to the data changes in the locale-specific exception tables and default tables:

NLSVersion Major – Changed code points in the 'exception,' or locale-specific tables
NLSVersion Minor – Added new code points in the 'exception,' or locale-specific tables
DefinedVersion Major – Changed code points in the default table
DefinedVersion Minor – Added new code points in the default table

Sorting version numbers fro released versions:

Operating SystemReleaseVersion (0xRRMMMMmm)
Windows XPRTM/SP1/SP2/SP3/…N/A - no GetNLSVersion() API
Windows Server 2003RTM/SP10x00 0000 01
Windows Vista RTM/SP1 0x00 0405 00
Windows Server 2008 RTM 0x00 0501 00 / 0x00 5001 00
Windows 7 RTM 0x00060100

 

Manifestation

Applications (such as databases) with persistent indexes that do not check the NLS version and re-index upon version change will fail to sort correctly or may fail to provide requested results.

In the case of user interfaces, lists (for example, alphabetical, numeric, alphanumeric, symbols, and so on) may sort incorrectly.

Solution

Your application can call either GetNLSVersionEx (Windows Vista or later) or GetNLSVersion (prior to Windows Vista) to retrieve both the defined version and the NLS version for a collation table.

  • GetNLSVersionEx:

Retrieves information about the current version of a specified NLS capability for a locale specified by name

This function allows an application such as Active Directory to determine whether an NLS change affects the locale used for a particular index table. If it does not, there is no need to re-index the table. For more information, see Handling Locale and Language Information.

This function supports custom locales. If lpLocaleName specifies a supplemental locale, the data retrieved is the correct data for the collation order associated with that supplemental locale.

Note: Versions of Windows prior to Windows Vista do not support GetNLSVersionEx.

  • GetNLSVersion (use for applications running on versions of Windows prior to Windows Vista):

Retrieves information about the current version of a specified NLS capability for a locale specified by identifier

This function allows an application such as Active Directory to determine if an NLS change affects the locale identifier used for a particular index table. If it does not, there is no need to re-index the table. For more information, see Handling Locale and Language Information.

Note: This function retrieves information only about a locale specified by identifier. The GetNLSVersionEx function supports additional locales, features, and RFC 4646 names. However, versions of Windows prior to Windows Vista do not support GetNLSVersionEx.

Applications meant to run only on Windows Vista and later should use GetNLSVersionEx in preference to this function. GetNLSVersionEx provides good support for supplemental locales.

Compatibility Test

Steps to tell if a collation version changed (that is, you need to re-index):

  • Use GetNLSVersionEx() to retrieve an NLSVERSIONINFOEX structure when doing the original indexing of your data.
  • Store the following properties with your index to identify the version:
    NLSVERSIONINFOEX.dwNLSVersion and NLSVERSIONINFOEX.dwDefinedVersion – These two properties together specify the version of the sorting table you are using.
    NLSVERSIONINFOEX.dwEffectiveId - This specifies the effective locale of your sort. A custom locale will point to an in-box locale's sort.
  • When using the index use GetNlsVersionEx() to discover the version of your data.
  • If any of the three properties has changed, the sorting data you are using could return different results and any indexing you have may fail to find records.
  • If you KNOW that your data does not contain invalid Unicode code points (that is, all of your strings returned TRUE from a call to IsNLSDefinedString()), then you may consider them the same if ONLY the low byte of dwNLSVersion and dwDefinedVersion changed (the minor versions described above).

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