Why there is no Iranian standard keyboard in Windows

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2010/05/11 07:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2010/05/11/10009925.aspx

Yes, C (not Claire, or Chrsitine; the other C, I mean) is probably grimacing after just seeing the title of this blog.

I can almost hear the two us acting out a bit from a Louis XIV song:

She said oh come on boy aren't you tired of talking Persia yet?
I said little girl what do you really expect?

I guess you have to be there. In my head, I mean....

So anyway, Afshar's question via the Contact Link was:

Hi Michael,

There is a good standard for Persian (Farsi) keyboard layout called ISIRI 9147 (former version was ISIRI 2901) but none versions of windows comply with it including Vista, XP, 98, 95. I always wonder why Microsoft  doesn't like to use this standard and even more each version's keyboard layout is changing by new versions? ISIR stands for Institute Of Standards & Industrial Research Of Iran (http://www.isiri.org/). ISIRI in Iran is something like ANSI in U.S.

I am a Persian (Farsi) user of MS Windows and an i18n interested C# developer.  I'm very pleased to help on this issue if I can. Please let me know if I can do anything.


And there was another, similar note from Nasser as well:

Dear Kaplan, Michael
As I Know you are a real good connector between microsoft and developers, I want to ask you to do something for me.
I Live in Iran and I always like to work with standard application. Microsoft is going to finalize Windows 7 and we want microsoft to implement a standard Keyboard Layout for Iran. Now in all windows versions (2008,vista,xp,etc) microsoft provides a keyboard layout for Farsi that is not a standard one.
The Institute of Standards & Industrial Research of Iran had announced two keyboard layouts: one ISIRI 2901 that realeased on about 13 years ago and the other one ISIRI 9147 that was the Persian Keyboard Layout version2 and released about 2 years ago.
We want to ask from microsoft to implement this keyboard Layout (ISIRI 9147) into windows seven and other following Operating System like Midori or viseversa Please show us the best way to connect to microsoft to ask this from them, or connect us to them, or better than everything ask them to implement this keyboard layout into windows.

FarsiWeb had implemented this layout and this layout is publicly available from here you can download it and use it but please do something for us, we use from a wide variety of unstandard application becouse of this bad kayboard layout that microsoft provided on windows.

there is a good group on google formerly named Persian Computing there are some good guys that can be helpfull for you like Behdad Esfahbod and Rouzbeh PourNader that were in ISIRI 9147 implementation team.
I am wonder if you help me, thank you so much , Nasser

Well, let me explain.

Microsoft does not have a subsidiary in Iran, and we don't sell software there.

We aren't allowed to, actually.

And while recent developments like US Lifts Iran, Sudan, Cuba Internet Services Export Ban are interesting (note that this had not yet happened when those two messages were sent to me), the meaning of these initial steps in terms of how companies would engage in reviewing or implementing standards in these countries is not entirely clear.

Note from the announcement that article links to:

U.S. companies can now export instant messaging, e-mail and social-networking tools, blogging software, Web browsers and photo and movie sharing software, as long as the software is publicly available at no cost to the user, the Department of Treasury said in a press release.

It is unclear whether keyboards and such that only go into products that the new guidelines wouldn't cover (i.e. Windows) would in fact be included - I am not a lawyer, but it seems unlikely.

I know I wouldn't just randomly start doing the work before people a whole bunch of levels over me told me it was okay.

So I guess the direct answer to afshar and Nasser as to why Microsoft isn't looking at these standards would be that Microsoft (or at least the small part of it in which I sit!) hasn't been given the okay to be looking into supporting those things.

If and when that changes and Microsoft can more directly engage in-country, some aspects of our support (like LIPs and keyboards and locales and so on) can be targeted more to the new customers in threse markets made available, as opposed to the expatriate market that is the current primary focus....

Aidan Kehoe on 11 May 2010 8:34 AM:

There are, as far as I’m aware, no restrictions in the US on selling software to Afghanistan, where they also speak Persian (though it tends to be called Dari there). Michael Everson has a document commissioned by the United Nations, http://www.evertype.com/standards/af/af-locales.pdf , describing a keyboard layout for Afghanistan, based on ISIRI 2901. If there are no existing layouts shipped for Afghanistan, it would seem to me to be reasonable to take advantage of the work Michael (and Roozbeh Pournader) have done already.

Michael S. Kaplan on 11 May 2010 8:43 AM:

Dari (aka Eastern Farsi) is not Persian, and there is no formal or AFAIK informal request to make the keyboards there based on an Iranian national standard.

I have spoken previously about problems with the Everson doc....

Aidan Kehoe on 12 May 2010 1:30 AM:

I can't find anything from you on blogs.msdn.com mentioning Everson’s document. Maybe you posted it to the Unicode lists?

‘Persian’ and ’Farsi’ are in origin and in use the same word, it doesn’t make sense to say ‘Dari (aka Eastern Farsi) is not Persian’. Certainly, the Persian of Afghanistan has differences from Iranian Persian, some of them major. But the Iranians could certainly use a keyboard intended for Dari! :-)

Michael S. Kaplan on 12 May 2010 7:05 AM:

Providing ingformation that is CLDR/UCA/ISO keyboard based does not help enable it on Windows, which uses none of those things, something that he was told repeatedly, and ignored.

Just as Iberian Portuguese is not Brazilian Portuguese, Dari in Afghanistan is not Persian in Iran, and support of languages of Iran and Iranian standards cannot be done, as I stated.

End of story, period.

C! on 12 May 2010 9:54 PM:

Consider this your official grimace! :)  Hope folks get that the problem is not a product planning one, but a legal one that the company (as well as a lot of other companies) is required to follow until someone tells the people who make these kinds of decisions otherwise.  Nuff said.

Michael S. Kaplan on 12 May 2010 10:59 PM:

Thank goodness someone understands. :-)

Michael Everson on 13 May 2010 5:10 AM:

I've no idea what you mean about "problems with the Everson doc". You'e never said anything to me about it. The Afghani keyboard specifications were designed to be compatible with the ISIRI keyboards (particularly as hardware keyboards in Afghanistan are likely to be sourced from Iran), so it is certainly the case that Persian speakers would be able to make some use of the Afghan Dari keyboard layout.

There are Persian speakers in the United States, who are citizens of the United States, and there have been for many years. I daresay they have worked hard,  form some sort of market.

Michael Everson on 13 May 2010 5:13 AM:

"Providing ingformation that is CLDR/UCA/ISO keyboard based does not help enable it on Windows, which uses none of those things, something that he was told repeatedly, and ignored."

Rubbish. The Afghan documents show pictures of the keyboard layout. "Put this letter on this key". That's pretty basic. I'm quite sure that Microsoft must have hired people who would be bright enough to work this out.

Juerg on 13 May 2010 6:18 AM:

I wonder why it's possible on the Mac. I doubt that California has other laws than the state of Washington...

Michael S. Kaplan on 13 May 2010 6:45 AM:

Microsoft provides Persian locales and localizations (through LIPs) and calendar support foir the expat community for over a decade; it is not Persian support that is the issue here; it is simply direct government contact that is.

I won't comment about convenient memory losses except to say that there clearly are some. Eight years? I won't judge....

Random832 on 13 May 2010 6:50 AM:

So why is it that the locale can be called "fa-IR", and have a currency symbol of "ريال", if it's for the expat community?

"it is not Persian support that is the issue here; it is simply direct government contact that is." Why would making _this_ keyboard imply direct government contact, in a sense that the current windows persian keyboard does not?

Michael S. Kaplan on 13 May 2010 6:59 AM:

Becuase expats make the request. The difference? Explicit compliance with a government standard.

Montana on 14 May 2010 7:32 AM:

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Mohammad on 14 May 2010 11:35 AM:

I understand the legal concerns, but I seriously doubt that it will cause any problems, since exporting MS Windows to Iran is different from complying with an Iranian national standard (yes I know that has to be stated by a lawyer). Major open source operating systems (e.g. unix-based distributions) are already supporting ISIRI 9147 out-of-the-box.

Anyway, thanks for considering this. I guess we have to contact some more senior Microsoft official. Can you direct us or our request to someone who can help? This will have a large impact on Persian support and standardization in computational environments and reducing our hassles.

Michael S. Kaplan on 14 May 2010 11:39 AM:

Microsoft adopts national standards in large part through communication with and feedback from/to the provider of the standards -- which in this case means the ability to talk to the government. The impact is known and understood, but the limitations on people in a country caused by the government of that country are really a bit beyond reasonable scope for companies that aren't allowed to deal with the country....

Mohammad on 14 May 2010 1:06 PM:


Assuming that standards compliance doesn't violate US Export Control regulations, communication with and feedback from/to the provider of the standards is perfectly possible, and there's no restriction from either governments (U.S. and Iran) imposed (see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article6962844.ece for an example related to public health). This is not to mention that the standard document is publicly available (in Persian) (http://isiri.org/std/9147.pdf) and it contains all information needed to comply with it.

Also the members of the committee who produced the standard are well-known people (mainly people at FarsiWeb Inc. and Sharif University), two of whom currently live in North America (Roozbeh Pournader and Behdad Esfahbod - search their names). They would be more than happy to help Microsoft implement the standard and they are *the ultimate* experts on the issue. They have tried to persuade Microsoft to do this at past with no avail (http://www.farsiweb.ir/wiki/Standard_Persian_keyboard). I myself know the head of the committee (http://sharif.edu/~tabesh/) in person and can help if more formal communication with ISIRI is needed.

As far as I am aware, there's probably nothing outside of Microsoft which may impede the adoption of the Persian standard keyboard layout.

Ahmad on 14 May 2010 2:14 PM:


I prefer the Farsi keyboard standard that has already been used in Microsoft windows products. It's really handy and comfortable to me.

But there is something strange about Farsi language in Windows, the two letter code for Farsi is "Fa" but the language is called "Persian"!

Dear mans, the correct/modern name of this language is Farsi, Persian is an ancient name and is now outdated, so stop go on to use it!

Mohammad on 14 May 2010 3:18 PM:


'Farsi' is not an English word, it's the 'Persian' word for 'Persian'. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farsi#Nomenclature

The link above also explains why the language code is 'fa' instead of 'pe'.

Also, the current Windows default keyboard doesn't have several of the characters in Persian, most importantly Persian numbers (you must have been so used to typing numbers in English!). If you compare the layouts, the 9147 standard is clearly richer and more suitable for Persian. The current one is mostly designed for Arabic, contributing to some bad practices in Persian typing and problems for search engines.

Michael S. Kaplan on 14 May 2010 5:45 PM:


Mohammad - The way that Microsoft within a market and with standards may not seem best to you in this case, but such policies are not developed on the back of a cocktail napkin, to be discarded for the sake of a market that one cannot even ship software into. It is a hard message, but please don't assume just because I am hearing someone describe a situation means that I can be magically convinced to adovcate such an arbitrary change based on no business model at all.

Ahmad - I discuss the issue with the name here and other places.

Mohammad on 15 May 2010 2:58 AM:


OK, I undertand! I was just trying to clarify. Thanks anyway.

Ahmad on 15 May 2010 12:03 PM:

Michael, I really like the way you get in touch with people and developers outside the company through this blog. I think the final users of a feature in a software product will always determine what it looks like and without a good interaction between developers and users, it may take a lot to software to fulfill the needs of user.

I’m sure the Microsoft will finally include the ISIRI standard as the second Farsi keyboard layout (Like EN-US which has several keyboard layouts) in Windows and wondering why people are trying to prove that the ISIRI standard is the only best, and must be substituted with the standard that people have already got used to it. I think these are the two standards.

Michael S. Kaplan on 15 May 2010 2:02 PM:

Well, one never knows what may happen, but one interesting point is how enthusiastically some expats will defend the mother country's decisions (the "Farsi" vs. "Persian" thing is one example, the keyboard is another). Some things they will get, other things they won't. Because the process is not a healthy and open exchange with government and technology (as it is with almost the entire rest of the world).

I hope that can change one day, I truly do. Not just for this sake but for the sake of freedom for a lot of people. I think of a better Windows experience as a cherry on the ice cream sundae of that freedom. :-)

CFynn on 7 Jun 2010 1:45 AM:

Other languages / countries which don't have export restrictions from the U.S. are also missing keyboard layouts / locales.

e.g. What about Dzongkha / Bhutan?

Aidan Kehoe on 11 Jun 2010 7:04 AM:

I've put up the Afghan layouts described in Michael Everson and Rozzbeh Pournader's document in MSKLC source and binary format here: www.parhasard.net/afghan-keyboard . The source files are well-commented and public domain; I'm attempting to get them proofed by people with the relevant expertise, but I'm reasonably confident they reflect the source document closely.

Patris_70 on 2 Aug 2012 8:45 AM:

Article about Microsoft support or partner in Iran


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referenced by

2011/02/01 I Dari you! Heck, I Double Dari you!

2010/08/19 A bit about some Arabic script but not Arabic language stuff...

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