Windows Vista: An Expanded View of Internationalization
Over the years, even before the introduction of Windows 95, each version of Windows has built upon its predecessor to provide improved support for handling the international needs of its users in four basic areas:
In Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows ME, partial multi-script document creation was enabled. This included the input and display of languages like Chinese, Japanese and Korean on non-East Asian versions of the operating system.
With the release of Windows 2000, text encoding was moved from code pages to the use of Unicode. This allowed the display and input of any language on any localized version of windows including English. Unicode also allows the support of languages that had very little support in the past, like Hindi, Sanskrit, Georgian and others. Another feature introduced in Windows 2000 was a technology called Multilingual User Interface (MUI), which allowed one computer to display the operating system UI in different languages without having to have different localized versions partitioned on the disk. This meant that you could change the system UI by merely logging off and logging back in. You did not have to reboot the whole system. This gave global companies a more efficient way to support multiple languages across their organizations. MUI was a great start, but it did not give the user 100% of the UI in the different languages. The rest of the UI was in English.
With Windows XP, more languages and locales were supported and MUI was improved to approximately 97% coverage of all the UI (see Windows XP overview page for more details). Before Windows XP, users had to wait until the next major versions of the operating system before they could get any new languages added.
Another new concept called Language Interface Packs (LIPs) was introduced with the Windows XP release. Using the MUI framework, Microsoft create language skins that provided 80% of the average user experience, by translating just 20% of the UI. This allowed many more people access to the power of the personal computer in their own language (Windows XP LIPs). With Windows Vista, users experience the continued improvement of the four areas mentioned above.
With support added to Windows XP, Microsoft enabled new languages between major releases. This functionality of language enabling was called ELKs (Enable Language Kits), and it became very evident it was a success when 25 languages were enabled with the release of Windows XP SP2. Eleven more languages were released via the Microsoft Download Center (see below). This added support for languages like Bengali, Maori, isiZhosa, isiZulu, Mohawk.
In Windows Vista, all of these features have been updated, and much more support has been added.
On This Page
Display and Creation of Text in Different Languages
The first thing that Windows Vista users will notice is that, out of the box, all languages and scripts are enabled. No longer will you need to turn on the support for East Asian languages (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) and Complex Script languages (Arabic, Hebrew, Indic, Thai, etc.). These languages will just be there. Included in this is support for seven new complex scripts.
Also, three non-complex scripts are supported.
To support these scripts, several new fonts have been added. Note that the naming syntax in the following table is font name (language it supports),
* Kartika and Vrinda shipped in Windows XP SP2
Note that five of these fonts are created for use as East Asian UI fonts. They are:
Along with the new fonts, updates to fonts for earlier supported scripts have been added:
Input of Text Methods Updated and New Ones Created
Windows 2000 was the first version of the Windows operating system that allowed for multiple language input on any version of the OS. That meant that you could enter Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Arabic, and Thai text using different language keyboard layouts and Input Method Editors (IMEs) on an English version of Windows 2000. Windows Vista enhances this feature by adding and updating keyboard layouts and IMEs for existing and newly-supported languages.
Below is a table of all the new keyboard layouts added to Windows Vista:
Input Method Editors (IMEs)
IMEs are used to enter the many thousand characters of Chinese, Japanese and Korean using a standard keyboard. In Windows Vista, many major enhancements have been added to make their use even easier.
Chinese Simplified IMEs
For Windows Vista, Simplified Chinese input is unified into a single input platform with multiple styles, although there still is access to several Windows XP IMEs. The platform is the Microsoft PinYin IME (MSPY), and it has three styles:
Besides these three input styles there are four other input methods available. They are:
Chinese Traditional IMEs
The IMEs for Chinese Traditional input has added a new addition to the Intelligent IMEs (New Quick) as well as enhancing the Intelligent IMEs rich typing features. These enhancements for New Phonetic, New ChangJie, and Quick IMEs are:
As an added way to enter characters, all IMEs have access to the IME Pad. The IME pad allows the input of characters by one of four ways:
In the past, there have been two Japanese IMEs: the Standard and Natural Input styles. Windows Vista has unified both the Standard and Natural Input style into one single IME. It is called the Microsoft IME, but the good thing is that it keep both the Standard and Natural Input functionality.Along with unification, the following features have also been added:
A majority of the work done for the Windows Vista’s Korean IME was in the area of Hangul (the Korean alphabet) to Hanja (Ideographic characters) conversion. The new or updated functions of the Korean IME are:
Besides keyboard layouts and East Asian IMEs, Windows Vista has added handwriting recognition as a built-in tool. Not only is this available for Tablet PCs, but is also found in the desktop and laptop versions of the operating system. Thus if you have some type of pen input device, you have access to handwriting input. In fact, you can use your mouse as rudimentary input device for Windows Vista.
Every version of Vista has access to the following handwriting recognition engines:
Windows Speech Recognition, a new feature in Windows Vista, lets you interact with your computer using your voice. It was designed for people who want to use their mouse and keyboard less, while maintaining—or even increasing—their overall productivity. It allows you to dictate documents and e-mails in commonly used programs, and use voice commands to start and switch between applications, control the operating system, and even fill out forms on the web.
Windows Speech Recognition adapts to your speaking style and vocabulary, so the accuracy with which Windows Vista recognizes your speech improves each time you use it. Windows Vista supports speech recognition in a number of languages:
All of the speech recognition engines do not come with all language versions of Windows Vista. They are only available on their corresponding language version of Windows Vista.
Besides speech recognition, Windows Vista has a text-to-speech program (or basic screen reader) called the Narrator. Narrator reads menus without leaving the active window. Individuals who use Narrator will find a more pleasant, natural sounding voice in Windows Vista than the Windows XP technology. Not only does the Narrator read English it can also read Simplified Chinese text, but this feature only comes on the Simplified Chinese version of Windows Vista.
Display Format for Dates, Time, Numbers, Currency, Etc.
Besides the scripts and fonts, locale support (sort tables, format for dates, time, numbers, currency) for 35 new locales has been added to Windows Vista. These locales can be accessed via the Control Panel’s Clock, Language and Region section.
Note that the naming syntax in the following table uses this format: language ([script,] country/region).
Not only does Windows Vista introduce these new locales, it also includes all of the post Windows XP support mentioned above for 36 more locales added to Windows XP via Service Pack 2 (25 locales) and an update to Service Pack 2 (11 locales):
These locales are available as part of the Windows XP SP2 download.
These locales are available as part of the SP2 Update to Windows XP.
Unattended Setup for Locales
One other way the access to locales has been expanded in Windows Vista is via the Unattended Regional and Language Options component. This allows network administrators to set and change regional and language options without using the Control Panel. Although earlier versions of Windows had a limited number of international settings for previous versions of Windows, see http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=289125, this new Windows Vista component opens up more access to locale information. With this feature you can:
Access to Multiple Languages for the User Interface
Multilingual User Interface (MUI)
As stated at the beginning of this article, one of the main international features of Windows Vista is its ability to allow the text of the operating system to be displayed in multiple languages. This allows large corporations to roll out the same worldwide image with a single install job. Local users can then select the user interface language or it can be set by Group Policy for Organizational Units.
It also allows different language users to share the same workstation or roaming users to take their localized user interface from one workstation to another. For instance, one user might choose to see system menus, dialogs and other text in Japanese, while another user logging onto the same system might prefer to see the corresponding text in French.
MUI functionality started with Windows 2000. Microsoft introduced the MUI technology and the Windows MUI Pack. Installed on top of an English-language Windows operating system, the MUI pack implements the MUI technology and provides an MUI version of the operating system. The MUI operating system version allows users to set the user interface language according to their preferences, provided that resources for the required languages have been added to the operating system. This technology was only available to enterprises and OEMS and was not sold as a retail product (to learn more about MUI technology, see Microsoft’s MUI FAQ).
Beginning with Windows Vista, all Windows operating system versions are enhanced with the latest MUI technology. Even if an operating system has only single-language localization support, the MUI technology is still working to provide user interface localization. Speaking of localization support, where as Windows XP sold in 24 different languages, Windows Vista is sold in 35 different languages, as follows.
There actually is a 36th language version: there is a Chinese - Traditional version for Hong Kong that is set to handle the Hong Kong encoding HKSCS character set.
As long as you have either the Windows Vista Enterprise or Windows Vista Ultimate versions, one or more MUI packs can be added on top of any language system of Windows Vista. Unlike Windows XP, you no longer need to have the English version to have MUI functionality.
This means that for the first time users have a solution for the age old question, “My computer’s operating system’s language is in German, but I don’t speak German. I speak Japanese. How can I convert my system to Japanese?” The answer is one of two possibilities. If you bought Windows Vista Ultimate, then all you need to do is load the Japanese MUI language module. If you bought something other than Windows Vista Ultimate, then first upgrade to the German version of Windows Vista Ultimate and then load the Japanese MUI language module.
To learn more, see Windows Vista Supported Language Packs.
Language Interface Packs (LIPs)
Although Windows Vista MUIs provide a translated version of most of the user interface and require a license to be used, Windows Vista has another feature built upon the MUI technology to allow it to be used by more people in their own language. This feature is called Windows Vista Language Interface Pack (LIP).
The difference between MUI packs and Windows Vista LIPs is the LIPs provide a translated version of the most widely used areas of the user interface. Although this is about 20% of the UI, it still covers about 80% of most users’ experiences. Also, LIPs are freely available for download, and most LIPs can be installed and used on any edition of Windows Vista: Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, Enterprise, or Ultimate.
Because the entire user interface is not translated, LIPs require at least one parent language. The parts of the user interface that are not translated into the LIP language are displayed in the parent language. When you download a LIP, you are given the parent language requirements for that LIP. The parent language pack needs to be installed before the LIP can be installed. Although a parent language is needed, it does not need to be English. Several of the LIP languages require other languages as their parent language (e.g., the Catalan LIP’s parent language is Spanish). Windows Vista will have 61 different LIP languages:
To learn more, see Supported Language Interface Packs (Windows Vista).
Different Functionality for Different Regions
Along with locales, Windows Vista has several other functions that support different regions of the world. The following is list of some of these functions:
What about Developers?
Although this article does not have room to expand upon the enhancements that Windows Vista has added to its infrastructure to support creating international solutions, there are improvements that provide a more consistent Win32/managed development model. Several areas that will be covered, in other articles, are:
With the introduction of Windows Vista, the solutions to meet the needs of international users have been broadly expanded in these areas:
Plus, developers and IT professionals have richer foundation and platform to create and deploy international solutions for their own customers and users as well.