By Val Bakh
2. Windows 7
2.1 Windows 7 Editions
2.1.2 Support for multiple languages
Don’t breathe a sigh of relief; the fun may not be quite over yet. This depends on your linguistic requirements. It is easier if you are a home user. You simply buy any consumer edition of Windows 7 in your preferred language and enjoy the ride. But if you are an IT pro responsible for deploying and maintaining Windows 7 in a multilingual environment, then you are entitled to some more fun.
Windows 7 core binaries are language-neutral, but the graphical user interface (GUI) is not. Indeed, what you see on the screen ought to be in some language. Localization is implemented through language packs. There are two types of them: one is called simply language packs (LPs), and the other is referred to as language interface packs (LIPs). An LP provides complete localization, and one LP, designated as the default, is mandatory for any WIM image and for any installed instance of any edition of Windows 7. A LIP provides partial localization in a supplementary language and is dependent on a parent LP. Microsoft provides LPs through its volume licensing programs, and LIPs are freely available on the Internet.
Now we are ready to face one more way of classifying Windows 7 editions—based on their language support. An edition that supports only one LP at a time is referred to as a single-language edition. All editions except Enterprise and Ultimate are single-language editions. You can add as many LPs to an offline WIM image as you want, but when the image is deployed to a target computer and is first started, the user is prompted to select one language; all the other LPs are automatically removed. Enterprise and Ultimate are multilingual editions. If you add several LPs to a multilingual-edition image and deploy the image to a target computer, the additional languages are not removed when the user selects a preferred language. All the installed languages remain available, and the user can switch among them at any time.
One tricky decision that you may have to make is about maintaining WIM images in a multilingual environment. If you use only Windows 7 Enterprise or Ultimate, it’s almost a no-brainer: just add all the necessary LPs and LIPs to your images and let users play all they want with any of the available languages. With the other editions, however, you need to decide: Should you pump all the languages you are required to support into your single-language-edition images and then let users figure it all out? Or should you prepare a separate image for each geographic area with the language that is appropriate for that area? The answer lies in the way operating system updates are applied.
Suppose you are required to deploy Windows 7 in your company. You prepare an appropriate WIM image and deploy it. What should happen to the image after that? Should it simply be archived and become history? Most likely, not. There is always some level of dynamics: new employees are hired and each needs a computer; some computers malfunction and need to be reimaged; some computers get old, are retired, and need to be replaced. So the chances are that you’ll need to keep the image handy for quite some time. Every month, Microsoft releases new updates, and you need to deploy them not only to the existing computers but also to the WIM image, so that a year later you wouldn’t have to apply a ton of updates to each new target computer. Some updates are language-specific and are applied to each installed language. If you added languages after installing any language-specific updates, you would need to reapply those updates.
So it turned out not too bad, after all. Regardless of whether you use single-language or multilingual editions of Windows 7, you should install all the languages you need, in all of your deployment images, in advance. This way, you will need to maintain fewer images and you will be able to do it more efficiently.