Word97: Preliminary Experimental Results

From: Glen C. Perkins (glen.perkins@nativeguide.com)
Date: Thu Feb 06 1997 - 19:45:49 EST

Well, I went out and bought Office97, mostly in order to have a
Unicode-based Word.

I've installed all the "Far East" language packs, and have discovered a
couple of odd things. First, if I open everyone's favorite test page,


I get missing-char boxes where the kanji and hanzi should be. Not too
surprising since the new direct HTML support probably uses some "HTML
default fonts" (one for proportional, one for fixed) defined somewhere,
and those fonts are probably 8859-1.

When I select a some CJK text and choose one of the Asian fonts, it
works as I would expect (well, *after* I remind myself again that kana
chars *are* included in the Chinese charsets, and that the JIS charset
does include the traditional 'country' (kuni, guo2, kuk) char!), but if
I change to other Asian fonts to see how they look, my machine locks up
after a couple of changes.

My assumption is that Word97 is trying to hold all of these enormous
fonts simultaneously in memory and choking on them. It locks up tight,
and I'm forced to control-alt-delete the app to get out of it. It
appears as though working with multiple Asian languages means 1) save
your work often, 2) "multilingual" doesn't necessarily mean "at the same
time", and 3) choose your favorite font and stick with it. It may also
mean getting more than the apparently wimpy 32MB of RAM that I have.

Oddly, after changing to a double-byte font, if I change the font to
plain ol' Arial (sometime before my quarter runs out and the game locks
up ;-) ), the CJK chars remain CJK. They don't go back to being
missing-char boxes. They do seem to change shape a bit, though, but the
font drop-down menu above claims they are Arial, which is obviously
wrong, so I don't know what font they really are.

I was hoping to solve some of the mysteries surrounding Office97's new
unicode support, so I asked the talking paperclip (the new help agent)
what he could tell me about unicode support. He hadn't heard of unicode.
I went into the help index manually, but "uninstall" is all it could
suggest in answer to "unicode". Hmmm... Nowhere in the help system, or
the printed manual, that I can find, is unicode mentioned (although, of
course, I may have missed it.)

I tried asking the paperclip about Japanese. He recognized that and
cheerfully took me to a page showing how to install "multilingual
support" which, it said, means I can now display docs written in "any
European language." I eventually found one sentence that says you can
display "Far Eastern" languages if you add support for them, but it
doesn't say what that means or how to add such support. It's not a part
of the standard installation, nor is it included among the huge number
of options when doing a custom install. There doesn't appear to be
anything in any readme doc that I've found telling users how to set up
CJK support. Because I knew it was there somewhere, thanks to Lori and
Murray on this mailing list, I eventually found the files in the "Far
East" directory, in the "ValuePack" directory. No readme in the
directory, though, just executables with cryptic names like chtsupp.exe
(presumably Chinese Traditional Support--MS likes those 8.3 filenames.)
Not a feature anyone is going to accidentally discover or easily figure
out how to use if they do. The installer .exe's want you to reboot your
machine between each language pack, too. (I thought I could ignore it
and reboot once at the end, but I was punished....) It would have been
nicer if they had been listed in English as options during a custom

I'll get in and crawl around with a hex editor and figure things out for
myself, since that's the sort of thing I do for a living, but this is
still an implementation more suited to CS majors than Japanese majors.

I'm extremely pleased to see the direction Microsoft is going with
multilingual support, but this has all the appearances of a valiant
behind-the-scenes effort by a few wonderful people trying to do the
right thing amongst a sea of developers and marketers with "more
important" things on their minds than meeting the needs of the eccentric
multilingual fringe. ;-)

Keep up the fight,
__Glen Perkins__

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.2 : Tue Jul 10 2001 - 17:20:34 EDT