I think we've made progress

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/09/20 03:31 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2005/09/20/471657.aspx

I had to install Windows 2000 today.

I noticed something that I must have seen dozens of times over the last few years and never noticed:

Do you see it?

Did we really say that the system locale and user locales control how numbers, currencies, and dates appear?

At least we have been getting better since that time....


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# Damien Guard on 20 Sep 2005 9:56 AM:

Um, I still don't see it.


# Michael S. Kaplan on 20 Sep 2005 10:41 AM:

See what?

The claim in the dialog that implies the system locale affects numbers, currencies, and dates?

It is the first line in the dialog....

# Damien Guard on 20 Sep 2005 11:14 AM:

Yeah I see that line.

So what was wrong with that, or whats changed?


# James Hancock on 20 Sep 2005 11:23 AM:

You're kidding right? You haven't made progress! Even in betas of Vista this is still way too complex.

Proof? 99% of Windows XP copies sold in Canada and not preinstalled by a large company like Dell that pre-sets it to Canadian English are running in American English because it's the default on our CDs.

In the manual install you need a dialog that says "What country are you in? and gives them a map to help them make a selection. It should then default the keyboard layout and set the locale and everything else automatically. The user could then override the keyboard layout below if they so chose. (i.e. in Canada it should be set to English Canadian (US))

In the OEM setup screen that comes up on first load, it's marginally better but not much. It should work the same way as I suggest above.

And the Regional Settings dialog in Windows XP in Control Panel?

That's an exercise of the one of the worst interfaces I have ever seen! Chuck the whole thing and start again. I have never met a user that isn't a programmer that can understand it.

If this an example of MS getting better, then wow, that's sad. I would use the rest of the Vista installation system as an example, but not that!

# Travis Owens on 20 Sep 2005 11:29 AM:

I have to agree, you don't specifically explain what's wrong with this assumption because it does affect how money and datetime looks like in the system.

# Maurits [MSFT] on 20 Sep 2005 11:51 AM:

> The claim in the dialog that implies the system locale affects numbers, currencies, and dates

Doesn't any process that runs as SYSTEM use the system locale? What if one of those processes has to output a number, currency, or date, to text? Wouldn't that show up in the format specified by the system locale?

As an example... suppose I write a service that monitors the hard drive space and logs an event every time it exceeds a threshold. If I include the current byte usage in the event text, wouldn't that be formatted in the SYSTEM locale settings?

# Michael S. Kaplan on 20 Sep 2005 12:01 PM:

Hi Maurits --

And you believe that such a distinction is true for the average user who runs setup, rather than the real functions of the default system locale? :-)

Most usage of it as a locale is actually a bug, since it assumes that users would not want the data stored in locale-neutral format so that a locale-specific format matching their own preferences can go into a viewer....

# Maurits [MSFT] on 20 Sep 2005 12:03 PM:

Somewhat ironically, your screen shot is of a Windows 2000 /Server/ setup. :)

# Michael S. Kaplan on 20 Sep 2005 12:03 PM:

Hey Travis --

I have gone out of my way in this blog and later versions of Windows have gone out of their way everywhere to be better about explaining the meaning of the various terms and the core functionality each affects. Hopefully some of it was read by some of the people who read this blog. :-)

# Michael S. Kaplan on 20 Sep 2005 12:04 PM:

Hi Maurits --

Pro has the same dialog, I checked. :-)

# Michael S. Kaplan on 20 Sep 2005 2:36 PM:

Hi James,

Of course, Beta 1 of Vista has no international settings choices in setup, which is a win for simplicity but of course a loss for usabiliy. This will change in Beta 2, though.

As for the rest, I would never claim that the RO/RLO Ui has been entirely intuitive, but the text on the dialogs in XP and beyond is significantly better, and anyone who can read has a much better chance of getting something done.

# Ben Bryant on 20 Sep 2005 4:44 PM:

Michael I think you're getting a little geeky to be thinking more than 1% of the people who read that dialog will be familiar with the distinction between system and user locales. It is good that the wording has been fixed since Win2K, but... I would even guess that less than half of your regular readers would be familiar enough with that to flag that wording. The system/user locale distinction happens to be something that I am super-sensitive to, but I still didn't pay attention on first read and also most of the stuff on your blog goes over my head, so I would expect people to skim over wording about system and user locale blah blah blah. No?

# Michael S. Kaplan on 20 Sep 2005 4:48 PM:

Actually Ben, they would not. But they do understand -- "this decides how date are formatted" (especially when a sample with a date is sitting right there). So, compare the old where no one understands and it is not even accurate for their purposes, and the current situation which is still not perfect but is somewhat better. :-)

# Rosyna on 20 Sep 2005 5:01 PM:

I'm betting the far majority of people just skip that altogether and then change it when they've actually booted in (if they have MUI).

I like how OS X just asks you the language you speak and then asks you the country you're from and bases all the rest on that.

# Damien Guard on 23 Sep 2005 6:44 AM:

I understand the difference between System and User locales - quite often we need the System locale to also be our region so that web sites correctly format dates and times without needing further tweaks.

The whole process is quite poor under windows. It asks me locale, then asks me time zone... and then fails to set my default paper types to be ISO (e.g. A4). Here's a tip: Only the USA uses Letter and Legal.

At least most countries get their own language-specific version. Here in the UK we are expected to use the US version and accept all the language differences. This applies to the Mac too.


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