Language Packs in Windows 7
Language packs contain the resources required to translate all or parts of the user interface (UI) of a Windows operating system into a specific language.
Language packs existed prior to Windows Vista, but they could only be applied on top of a specific language edition of Windows, typically English.
With Windows Vista and Windows 7, the multilingual user interface (MUI) technology is core to how Windows is built. In Windows XP and earlier Windows releases, UI resources were packaged together with the code binaries to build language-specific versions of the operating system. Now, UI resources are separated from the code binaries and packaged in language packs for all languages—including English. In Windows Vista and Windows 7, using this mechanism, language-specific versions of the operating system are built by assembling the language-neutral code binaries with a language pack that delivers the operating system UI in the desired language.
Localization models in Windows XP vs. Windows Vista and Windows 7
This model provides a lot of flexibility for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), system builders, and enterprises when it comes to managing their international deployments. For the end users this also opens the possibility of having multiple languages on a single computer and of being able to switch the UI from one language to another.
This document describes the characteristics of the different language packs that Microsoft provides for Windows 7. It provides information on the parts of the product that are localized, the licensing considerations that apply, and the availability depending on the language pack type. Also covered are the localization differences between a localized version of Windows and one after a language pack has been installed.
On this Page
Language Pack Categories Overview
There are two main categories of language packs:
Both complete language packs and LIPs are used to localize Windows UI, and both are built using the same underlying technology. However, there are significant differences between them, mostly related to the localization coverage they provide for the system user interface and the licensing rules that apply to them.
Complete language packs
A complete language pack includes the complete set of resources (such as strings, icons, dialogs, and error messages) that comprise the Windows UI.
Since Windows is built by assembling the language-neutral OS with a language-specific language pack, any edition of Windows includes at least one complete language pack.
On some editions, the license allows more than one complete language pack to be installed, and each user can select one of the available UI languages to match individual preferences.
Partially localized language packs
A complete set of resources does not mean that all the resources are localized in the specified language. When not all resources are localized for a given language, the corresponding language pack is referred to as partially localized .
In order to provide a complete set of resources within a language pack, the resources that are not localized in that language are included in another language that is fully localized. This complementary language is called the base language. The parts of the UI that are not available in the language pack language are thus displayed in the base language.
The base language is defined by Microsoft to be a language that the user is the most likely to understand. The base language for many language packs is English, but not always. For some languages, such as Arabic, there are two possible base languages, allowing the user to pick the preferred base language after the language pack is installed.
For example, in the Greek (Greece) language pack, the majority of the language resources are available in Greek and the remaining language resources are in English which is fully localized. English is the base language for the Greek language pack.
Partially localized language pack with single base language
In the Arabic language pack, the majority of the language resources are available in Arabic and the remaining language resources are available in English and French which are both fully localized languages. English and French are the base languages for the Arabic language pack. After installation of the Arabic language pack the user can choose whether English or French should be used to display the UI elements that are not available in Arabic.
Partially localized language pack with two base languages
A LIP provides localized resources for the most-commonly used UI in the system. It can be considered as a localized “skin” applied on a Windows system.
A LIP does not require a license to be installed by the user, and it can be applied on any genuine copy of Windows.
Because LIPs do not contain the complete set of resources required by the system, a complete language pack is required to supply any resource not included in the LIP and to ensure the system is functional for the user. This prerequisite complete language pack is known as the parent language. A parent language pack provides full UI support for a LIP. The parts of the UI or help content that are not available in the LIP language are displayed in the parent language.
Each LIP requires the presence of a specific parent language in order to be installed. The parent language is defined by Microsoft to be a language that the LIP user is the most likely to also understand. The parent language is often English, but not always. Some LIPs have more than one possible parent language. For example, the Catalan LIP requires Spanish or French as the parent language; the Spanish example is illustrated here:
Catalan LIP with Spanish parent language
In regions where two languages are commonly used, system builders can provide a greater degree of local relevance and a better user experience by applying a LIP over a complete language pack.
Language packs and extent of localization
In Windows Vista the number of languages for which Windows was localized was greatly expanded. In order to support that increase, Microsoft introduced the notion of extent of localization (EOL) which defines different localization tiers for the Windows languages. The same model is used for Windows 7 language packs. This section outlines how the localization tiers are defined and what gets localized for each of them.
To define the EOL, the UI is divided into three groups denoting how commonly the UI is being used by most users. These UI groupings are:
Using the defined UI categories, three levels of localization are offered:
Complete language packs can have a level of localization that is “Full” or “Partial”.
The following table summarizes the extent of localization for the language packs shipped by Microsoft:
Provided in the base or parent language
It is important to note that the tiered localization approach may result in a “mixed-language” experience in the languages that are not fully localized. This will be more prominent in languages localized with the LIP language level.
At a Glance
The following table sums up the existing types of language packs and their characteristics.
*A parent language is a complete language pack that contains either fully localized or partially localized resources. The parent language can be different from the base language.
The following figure illustrates the different types of language packs and language-pack configurations.
Windows 7 language pack configurations
Language Packs Release Details
LIPs do not require a license and can be installed on any genuine client edition of Windows as long as one parent language is present on the system.
Windows version and architecture support
Language packs in general are specific to a Windows version and to system architecture. LIPs are no exception. A Windows 7 LIP can only be installed on a Windows 7 system. Conversely, a Windows Vista LIP can only be installed on a Windows Vista system.
In Windows Vista, LIPs are available only for systems with 32-bit architecture. For Windows 7, a few languages will be supported on systems with x64 architecture and made available to OEMs. See the available LIPs table at the end of this document for details on which LIPs are available and in which architecture.
Note that LIPs cannot be installed on Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2 systems.
Availability and distribution channels
LIPs are developed in collaboration with local language authorities as part of the Local Language Program and are typically released in waves with some delay after their corresponding Windows version has released.
When available, LIPs are posted to the Microsoft Download Center. Windows Vista LIPs can be downloaded and installed from specific pages based on the parent language required for the LIP:
Windows 7 LIPs will be made available in a similar fashion on the Microsoft Download Center.
Corporations and end users can download LIPs from the Microsoft.com download center as detailed above.
OEMs and system builders who have accepted the Microsoft Software License Terms can get the LIPs from the OEM and system builder-dedicated download center.
LIPs can be integrated in deployment images by OEM, system builders, or enterprises just as any other language pack.
Client language packs
Client language packs need to be licensed to be installed and run on a Windows 7 system. Since a complete language pack is required to display the system’s UI, all editions of Windows 7 are licensed to have one complete language pack running. Select editions are also licensed to allow more than one language pack on the system at a time. These editions are known as multilingual editions. A multilingual edition enables users to change the UI language on a per-user basis. Since the UI language is associated with the user profile, multiple users that share the same system can use it in different languages.
In Windows Vista and Windows 7, only the Enterprise and Ultimate editions are multilingual.
In some countries, Microsoft releases editions of Windows in which some features are removed to meet local regulations. In Windows Vista, these editions—the N and E editions in the European Union and the K and KN editions in Korea—were not multilingual. In Windows 7 all variations of the Enterprise and Ultimate editions are multilingual.
Windows version and architecture support
Like all other language packs, client language packs are specific to Windows version and to system architecture. This means that a Windows Vista language pack cannot be installed on a Windows 7 system, and a Windows 7 language pack cannot be installed on a Windows Vista system.
A language pack designed for 32-bit architecture cannot be installed on a 64-bit system, and vice versa. Client language packs are available in x86 and amd64 architecture in Windows Vista and Windows 7.
Availability and distribution channels
Starting with Windows Vista, the Windows build system uses language packs to produce the localized versions of the Windows releases. Therefore, when a version of Windows is made available for purchase, the complete language packs are also available through the various release channels . The Windows 7 language packs are expected to all be available by general availability of Windows 7.
Complete language packs are available to OEMs and corporations as part of OEM kits and Volume Licensing agreements. Users who purchase the Ultimate edition can download and install language packs as Optional Updates from Windows Update.
Server language packs
Starting with Windows Server 2008, server editions of Windows are also built by assembling the language-neutral OS and a language pack. These language packs are specific to the server editions of Windows.
Language packs for Windows Server 2008 R2 have characteristics similar to the complete language packs for Windows 7, except they cover all the resources required for localizing the server UI which includes additional management UI.
Since the UI elements to be localized on Windows Server 2008 R2 are different than the UI elements to be localized on Windows 7, Windows 7 language packs cannot be installed on a system running Windows Server 2008 R2, and vice versa. The same applies to Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 language packs.
However, server language packs build on the client language packs. Consequently, the pieces common to the server and client language pack have the same extent of localization in both server and client language packs for a given language. Depending on the languages, server-specific components are either:
See the available server language packs table at the end of this document for details on the server extent of localization for each language.
All editions of Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 include at least one server language pack.
Unlike Windows 7 editions, all Windows Server 2008 R2 editions, with very few exceptions, are multilingual and support the installation of multiple language packs.
Windows Server 2008 is available in x86, x64 and IA64 (Itanium) architectures, and corresponding language packs are available for each of these architectures. Windows Server 2008 R2 supports the x64 and IA64 architectures. Thus the Windows Server 2008 R2 language packs are available in the x64 and IA64 architectures.
For both Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2, only a subset of languages is available for IA64 architecture.
Availability and distribution channels
Because the Windows Server build system also uses language packs to produce the localized versions of the Windows Server editions, the Windows Server 2008 R2 language packs are expected to be available by general availability of Windows Server 2008 R2.
Server language packs are available to OEMs and corporations as part of OEM kits and Volume Licensing agreements. All users can download the server language packs in groups as DVD images from the Microsoft Download Center (for example, Windows Server 2008 Language Packs ).
Other features included in language packs
In Windows 7, the complete language packs deliver some features in addition to the resources required to display the system’s UI in a specific language. The most notable of these features are:
These features are included on a per-language basis depending on availability. The availability or not of these features for a given language explains in large measure the variability in language pack sizes. For example, the English language pack contains two speech recognition engines, one for US English and one for UK English.
Depending on the version of Windows, these features may have shipped separately or may ship separately in the future as standalone releases.
Please refer to the available language packs tables to know which languages include these features.
Localization Exceptions with Language Packs
Language packs provide an easy way to localize a system that was originally developed in another language. In fact, Microsoft uses language packs to produce localized images of Windows that are shipped worldwide.
Large PC manufacturers, systems builders, and enterprises use this feature to decrease the number of Windows deployment images they use in their manufacturing processes. Depending on the way the system’s operating system is built, the language in which the UI is displayed may not be the first language pack that was installed on the system. Some of the deployment scenarios that use language packs include the following:
These scenarios all potentially result in a configuration in which the language pack the system is running under is not the language pack that was first installed on it. This is important to note because even though Windows localized versions are based on language packs, other than the case of fully localized language packs, some minor aspects of the UI will not change language and will always remain in the language they were first installed in.
The following are some examples of known aspects of the system that exhibit this limitation. The examples below are illustrated using a Windows 7 Ultimate system that was originally installed in English and on which the French language pack has been applied and set as the preferred UI language for both the system and the user. The text highlighted by orange is in the language of the original system.
Some strings in the device or device drivers’ properties will be displayed in the language of the original installation of the driver. Subsequent installations of language packs do not change the language of these strings. Such strings include:
For other drivers, additional property strings may exhibit this symptom. These strings are purely descriptive and do not affect the device functionality.
Predefined user account names (such as Administrator or Guest accounts) and descriptions are created in the language of the first installation of the system. This is visible wherever these accounts names are displayed directly, in particular in:
These accounts are exposed in a user interface that is meant to be accessed by administrators of the system only. From a functional standpoint, this language discrepancy does not cause an issue in the operating system beyond the cosmetic aspect. Well-behaved globalized applications should not have a problem either, as they should refer to these groups or account in a language-independent fashion using well-known SIDs .
System folders and files
System folder names under the “Users” root folder, such as “Favorites” and “Libraries”, will also stay in the language under which they were initially created. To visualize these folders, the user has to change the Search and folder options to enable displaying system folders, which is not recommended.
As far as the operating system is concerned, this is purely cosmetic. Well-behaved globalized applications should not have problems either, as they should be referring to these folders in a language-independent fashion using dedicated API to access known folders .
IE8 Predefined links:
If the user enables the Web Slices and Suggested Sites, these two links appear in the links toolbar in IE8 in the language of the original OS install.
Tasks descriptions in task scheduler:
The descriptions for some tasks that have been scheduled while the system was running in one language will stay in that language. An example of such a task is the Windows Backup task.
Some of these symptoms are due to limitations in the multilingual technology—for example, in the case of driver properties strings, the strings are stored in the registry and need to be compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7, which limits our options to redirect them to the appropriate language resource.
In other cases such as User Accounts and System folders, these are not intended to be displayed to average users in the management UI or in Windows Explorer.
In all cases, these limitations of language packs have limited visibility and are mostly cosmetic with no impact on the functionality of the system.
Available Language Packs
The following tables list the language packs and language interface packs (LIPs) available with Windows Vista and Windows 7 as well as the language packs available with Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2.
The following tables include the following settings as appropriate for the language pack type:
Client language packs
All client language packs are available for both the x86 and x64 architectures in Windows Vista as in Windows 7.
Complete language packs for Windows 7 and Windows Vista are available in the same set of languages.
Server language packs
The above table reflects the Windows Vista LIP release Plan of Record. The Windows 7 LIP release plan is based on this, with some adjustments for market demand and readiness.
Windows 7 editions multilingual support summary
Licensing allows multiple complete language packs
Licensing allows only one complete language pack
The multilingual support in this table refers to the ability to install multiple complete language packs. All Windows 7 editions allow the installation of Language Interface Packs (LIPs)
Installing LIPs and Language Packs