There is no Regional Options cartel

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/08/08 20:15 -04:00, original URI:

Shawn Neidig asks:

I know that within Microsoft there are many different teams working on the vast number of Microsoft products. Because of this there are many inconsistencies that occur between Microsoft products. I have posted a few questions below about Regional Options inconsistencies. It would be great if you could provide some insight/answers to these questions or perhaps refer me to a blog, website, news group, or Microsoft team member for info!

How do different Microsoft teams determine how much Regional Options compliancy they will provide? Is there an International team that governs all Microsoft products and monitors there I18N support?

It appears that Excel 2003, for the currency format, only supports the Decimal places Regional Option, why? How did that team create the Symbol list? Why is the Negative numbers list only a third of the Regional Options list?

In the future do you think the Regional Options support will become more consistent?

How should a non-Microsoft company determine the level of Regional Options support in there application?

Running XP SP2 Professional, Excel 2003, English (United States) Regional Options

Thanks so much for your time. Keep the blog posts coming; they are my source of daily news.

Shawn is asking a very interesting question here.

In some ways, it might be interesting to have one central international team for all products at Microsoft.  However, in practice is hard to believe that it would be effective.  While it is important to have experts in the area provide expertise on the specific issues related to international support, it is a near certainty that people who understand the actual product are just as important - if not more important - to correct decisions for the product.

Now Regional Options itself is owned by the GIFT team.  As a team, we take that responsibility seriously and if we see a product that is not using the setting when it seems to us that it should be, then someone will often make contact to make sure they consider their options.  I would like to believe that this would allow us to become more consistent over time, but in truth it seems unlikely since there's always new product and always new opportunity for people to not completely get this right.

In the specific case of Excel, in addition to appropriate Regional Options behavior, there are many issues with numeric computations that involve the user expectations and backwards compatibility.  This is a battle I have thought before, but at some point it becomes hard to win such a fight when your opponent admits that some users would agree with me and the only problem is that some other users won't.  And thus "fixing" the problem could actually make the problem worse - at least if we leave that behavior alone we won't break anybody who has already figured it out....

Developers outside of Microsoft can of course have a similar problem in either not using regional options settings at all or using them inappropriately.  For what it is worth the documentation is improving with each version.  However, the same problems exist with new documentation that may not have all of the right guidance, and it is important to never forget that a lot of people don't read the documentation.

Glad you like the blog, is always nice to know that one can be entertaining. :-)

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