Oh (Saka to me, Saka to me, Saka to me, Saka to me) Whoa Babe (Just a little bit) A little respect (just a little bit)

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/01/09 10:16 -05:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2008/01/09/7012965.aspx

From the recently pre-recorded blogs collection...

(Hat tip and apologies to the Goddess Aretha whose version of the Otis Redding song provided the title inspiration, which is much more appropriate and/or wholesome than a [misquoted ]P.T. Barnum reference would have been; although both are perhaps less amusing than a Joyce Botterill -- bka Judy Carne -- reference, the latter would have been to many the least recognizable of the three and I am not nearly as much of a TV snob as I am a music snob about these things!)

This post is a little bit related to another recent blog (Throwing a BRIC [with Diwali written on it] at Outlook, aka Attn. Outlook: There *is* an 'I' in BRIC) and more specifically a comment to it from Pavanaja U B:

FYI, Outlook 2003 Hindi version has the Hindu Saka calendar followed by Govt of India. It will show Hindu months in Hindi. I will send the screenshots, if you need.

Indeed it does, and the comment took me back....

I don't remember exactly when it was, but it was a long time ago.

Like maybe five years ago. It was before Office 2003 and Outlook 2003 had shipped, and way back when Vista was called Longhorn.

Cathy and I had a great idea a few months prior related to a way to stop having Windows and Office "surprise" each other with their respective features and bugs -- we would instead meet regularly to sync up on what we were both doing in the internationalization space. Technically I think it started as me grouching off about some particular mismatch and how embarrassing it was (I think it was our fault that time but both sides had been guilty at different times) and her suggesting we actually meet and communicate to keep lack of communication from being the problem, but the details are fuzzy. Eventually it led to a regular meeting that proved to be a really productive idea that was extended to other people on the team who were involved in stuff.

We also did the same thing with SQL Server as well, but that is unrelated to this post.

Anyway, fast forward a few months and the Office folks made a request of us to support the Saka era calendar for India. They were supporting it in Outlook.

But our schedule was full and our calendar support sucked overall in Windows (ref: Calendars on Win32 -- just there for show, Calendars on Win32 -- Not all there yet and others). Support for Indic would require a major overhaul that no one figured we had time for (not knowing at the time it would be over half a decade before LonghornVista saw the sunlight), so we pointed how any effort without that overhaul would just kind of suck from a customer standpoint and left it at that.

We didn't end up adding it to Vista, as they requested of us. But then, we did not do the Persian, Coptic, or Ethiopic calendars either. Lots of missing calendars, I'll talk about them another day. Well, on several different, other days.

Meanwhile the support is in Outlook, though a little hidden. You have to go to Tools|Options, hit the Calendar Options... button, and then look near the bottom of the dialog and choose the Enable alternate calendar: checkbox and choose Hindi/Saka Era:

Now what does this give you exactly?

At the very top of Calendar view, you will see something like this:

And that is really it.

The support is not exposed programatically, there is no other formatting support and no parsing support, either. It does not show up in the calendar control on new appointments, or any of the other myriad places one might expect it. The help content is just one topic with two paragraphs:

The date and time format used for each Indic language is determined by the calendar chosen. The list of calendars that you have available is determined by the languages you have enabled and by the operating system language setting you have selected in Windows Control Panel under Regional and Language Options for Windows XP or Regional Options for Windows 2000. Depending on the Indic language you have enabled, you can choose among these calendars: Saka Era (Hindi only), and Gregorian (all variants).

When a Indic language is the installed (installed language: The base language used that governs how several language characteristics will behave, such as the language of the primary dictionary, and the direction and alignment of text (left-to-right or right-to-left).) language, the predominate Indic calendar for that language will be the default calendar used— for example, for Hindi, Western or Saka Era; for Indic, Western.

Now for me, I have all languages installed, and the only choice that was Indic in that first dropdown was Hindi and the only calender under Hindi was Saka Era.

This seems strange to me given my understanding of calendars in India. I'll quote from the Wikipedia article on the Hindu calendar a bit:

Regional variants
The Indian Calendar Reform Committee, appointed in 1952 (shortly after Indian independence), identified more than thirty well-developed calendars, all variants of the Surya Siddhanta calendar outlined here, in systematic use across different parts of India. These include the widespread Vikrama and Shalivahana calendars and regional variations thereof. The Tamil calendar, a solar calendar, is used in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Vikrama and Shalivahana calendars
The two calendars most widely used in India today are the Vikrama calendar followed in Western and Northern India and Nepal, and the Shalivahana or Saka calendar which is followed in South India and Maharashtra.

Both the Vikrama and the Shalivahana eras are lunisolar calendars, and feature annual cycles of twelve lunar months, each month divided into two phases: the 'bright half' (shukla) and the 'dark half' (bahula); these correspond respectively to the periods of the 'waxing' and the 'waning' of the moon. Thus, the period beginning from the first day after the new moon and ending on the full moon day constitutes the shukla paksha or 'bright half' of the month; the period beginning from the day after the full moon until and including the next new moon day constitutes the bahula paksha or 'dark half' of the month.

The names of the 12 months, as also their sequence, are the same in both calendars; however, the new year is celebrated at separate points during the year and the "year zero" for the two calendars is different. In the Vikrama calendar, the zero year corresponds to 58 BCE, while in the Shalivahana calendar, it corresponds to 78 CE. The Vikrama calendar begins with the month of Baishakh (April). The Shalivahana calendar begins with the month of Chaitra (March) and the Ugadi/Gudi Padwa festivals mark the new year.

Another little-known difference between the two calendars exists: while each month in the Shalivahana calendar begins with the 'bright half' and is followed by the 'dark half', the opposite obtains in the Vikrama calendar. Thus, each month of the Shalivahana calendar ends with the no-moon day and the new month begins on the day after that, while the full-moon day brings each month of the Vikrama calendar to a close.

National calendars in South and South East Asia
A variant of the Shalivahana Calendar was reformed and standardized as the Indian National calendar in 1957. This official calendar follows the Shalivahana calendar in beginning from the month of Chaitra and counting years with 78 CE being year zero. It features a constant number of days in every month (with leap years).

The Bengali Calendar, or Bangla calendar (introduced 1584), is widely used in eastern India in the state of West Bengal, Tripura and Assam. A reformation of this calendar was introduced in present-day Bangladesh in 1966, with constant days in each month and a leap year system; this serves as the national calendar for Bangladesh. Nepal follows the Bikram Sambat. Parallel months and roughly the same periods apply to a number of Hindu-influenced calendars in Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Now somehow if this a brief description of the modern calendar situation for (to use the term Office does) Indic, then having the Saka Era only and having it only there for Hindi appears to me to be more than a little bit incomplete. It seems like in the I within BRIC there are a whole bunch of potential work items -- not only for different calendars but also for different formatting, and maybe even for programmatic ways to extend the support, too.

Remember how I said earlier in this blog how an incomplete effort done by the NLS folks here would have really kind of suck? Well, Microsoft did one better than the subjunctive text here; they provided Outlook to prove that it would. And does....

And of course the underlying need, which fits in with the original request the Office folks made for Vista way back when it was Longhorn, is a better Indic calendar story from NLS and from the .NET Framework. So that applications like Outlook don't need to build incomplete hacks like this. Given how late the product ended up being, we really dropped the ball here, somewhat continuously. With calendars, we still seem to be doing so.

It's funny, I was having hot cocoa the other day with a former colleague from my past life in the Office world (someone who helps prove to me that the stars can also rise!). We were talking about the Y2K effort in Office way back when and the later DST2007 nightmare, and of course the connection to the lame calendar story came up in the conversation -- seems like there is always enough time to complain about calendars even if we lack the time to actually fix them!

As product/feature areas go, Calendars seem like one that we are pretty terrible in, and I hope that the investigation on what ought to be there happens so the work can in fact happen. Because the Outlook feature seems woefully inadequate for the whole market, just as the holiday support is for the whole world in general and for Indic in particular. It is an area long overdue for fixing, especially for all of the important markets that have no good coverage at all....


This post brought to you by(U+09b6, aka BENGALI LETTER SHA)

Hello on 21 Aug 2010 10:14 PM:

I have installed indic languages and selected Hindi but could not able to set saka era calendar type. can you pl help me how to set it. I tried to search it in control panel > regional settings > regional preferences > Customize but here i am unable to find the calendar type.

Michael S. Kaplan on 22 Aug 2010 1:33 AM:

As the blog explains, this is an Outlook-only feature.

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referenced by

2011/08/01 The only way to be impressed by Microsoft is to ignore calendars

2011/03/28 Address formats are hard, let's go shopping!, revisited (aka To me, 'good enough' just isn't good enough)

2010/11/16 "Crap, I didn't start Schedule+", [some of] why I still don't love Outlook, and other nostalgias

2010/07/23 It used to be Windows doing it right, and Office following. But now...

2009/04/08 On intentional gaps in calendar lists

2008/05/08 Support of Holi^h^h^^hDAZE, in Outlook (aka Situations when competition might help customers)

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