Changing Default Languages, Revisited

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 30, 2014)

Last week's issue of WordTips included information on how to change the default language used by Word. The tip included some misleading information that was kindly (and graciously) corrected by a source at Microsoft. Indeed, the behavior of Word in relation to its default language can be a bit tricky.

The default language is actually set by choosing Language from the Tools menu, and then choosing Set Language. From the resulting Language dialog box you select the language you want Word to use, and then click on the Default button. This sets the language in the Normal style and is therefore the language that text will be proofed in when you start a blank document and start typing.

However, if you have more than one keyboard (input locale) installed on your system, when you start a blank document Word will automatically apply direct formatting on the text matching the currently active input locale, thereby overriding the setting in the Language dialog box. Word is designed this way so that when you start typing, the language Word assumes for the text has the best probability of matching the actual language being typed (since the language being typed USUALLY matches the language of the input locale).

It is important to note that the above language setting is direct (non-styled) formatting. The Normal style, and therefore the true default language for Word is still the language chosen in Language dialog box.

Word 2000 and Word 2002 have an additional feature that causes them to try to automatically determine the language you are actually typing, which in practice does not always match the language of the input locale (keyboard) you are using. This is controlled by the addition to the Language dialog box of a check box entitled Detect Language Automatically. Word will only try to detect languages that are checked in the Office Language Settings utility. (Click on the Start button, choose Programs, select Microsoft Office Tools, and then run Microsoft Office Language Settings.)

To provide an example that illustrates the foregoing, let's imagine you have a plain English (U.S.) system with no additional input locales (keyboards) installed. You can go to the Languages dialog box, set the language to Danish, and click Default. The next time you create a blank document, the language will say Danish; you have changed the default. If you then go into the Control Panel and add an additional keyboard layout (e.g. Swedish), you will find that the language used for new documents is based on the keyboard that is active when the document is created. Ironically, if you do not add a Danish input locale, you will never see the default language appearing by default in Word. If you are using Word 2000 or Word 2002 and use the Office Language Settings utility to check the boxes for Danish and for Swedish, you'll find that Word will now detect the language you are typing after the first sentence or so, and set the language appropriately.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (889) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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