Microsoft Office 2008: Will it have a truly multilingual installer?

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft
September 16th, 2007 • 11:27 am

John Gruber links to a recent blog post from Microsoft’s MacBU that announces that Microsoft Office 2008 will use the standard Mac OS X installer and will no longer install a bunch of TrueType fonts in each user’s library without the user’s consent.

John Gruber calls this “good news,” but I call it “about bloody time.” The news here is not about the fact that Microsoft is finally doing the proper thing, but about how shockingly long it has taken them to do so. (And I won’t be surprised if they manage to screw up their adoption of the Mac OS X installer and introduce a new bunch of bugs and flaws in the process. We shall see.)

But the real question about Microsoft Office 2008 installation, as far as I am concerned, is whether this version of Microsoft Office will finally come with a truly multilingual installer, or whether Microsoft will still force us to purchase two different versions of Office, one French and one English, even though both versions including both the French and the English proofing tools.

In Mac OS X, you are supposed to be able to switch the language of your user interface and entire work environment with a simple change in the “International” preference pane. If you change the language listed at the top of the “Language” tab’s language list from “English” to “Français,” and then relaunch Word, it should switch its entire interface (menu titles, dialog boxes, etc.) from English to French. The current version of Office (2004) does not support this. If you want to use Word 2004 with a French interface, you have to purchase a different version of the software (full price, of course).

This is particularly important here in Canada, an officially bilingual country with lots of bilingual speakers, some of whom like a French interface while others like an English interface. I work in a French minority environment here in Nova Scotia, and I deal with the problem all the time. Some of my users want the French; some want the English. I have to tell them that they have to buy a different version of the software. This is not acceptable when the rest of the Mac OS X environment is truly multilingual and lets them switch languages on the fly.

But of course I highly doubt that Microsoft Office 2008 will support Mac OS X’s multilingual feature, simply because, in Microsoft’s universe, the adoption of the standard Mac OS X installer and the removal of one of the most insulting installation behaviours (the installation of these TrueType fonts) already took half a decade. If such obvious steps took so long, how long do you think a slightly less obvious step such as proper support for Mac OS X’s multilingual features will take?

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