Wednesday, September 26, 2007

User Files Folders are Bilingual

-- Multilingual actually.

Before reading this article, you might want to read my previous posts: Introducing the User Files Folders!, User Files Folders and the Desktop.INI. Those posts will prime you so that you can fully understand this post.

Remember that there is a new layer of abstraction of the Friendly Name for the User Files Folders? The LocalizedResourceName in the Desktop.INI represents the Friendly Name with a number. This abstraction makes it possible for Windows Vista to display the folder's name in the language of the GUI. Remember how -21790 represents the name of the "Music" folder? Well, if Vista is using an English GUI, it will display the name "Music", but if Vista is using a French GUI, it will display the name "Musique".

This versatility is one of the nicer features I have found in Vista. It solves problems that Windows XP has when trying to support a multi-language organization. Working for the Canadian federal government, I often find myself supporting bilingual staff who use French and English systems interchangeably. In the XP world I would install either a French or English OS according to a user's preference; however, the user's data and Personal Folders are usually redirected to a share on the network. What would happen is that the user's English OS would create the "My Music" folder on their H: drive and they would listen to tunes quite happily. Then the user would need to spend time at another workstation that happens to have the French OS. The French OS creates a "Ma Musique" folder on the H: drive and thinks it will function quite happily. Unfortunately, the user doesn't realize the switch has been made - all he knows is that Windows Media Player can't find his favourite Alanis Morissette tunes and he calls the help desk. In addition, when the user returns to his usual PC, he finds his tunes once again, but loses the others he downloaded while away and also has a bunch of extra folders in his H: drive.

The abstraction of the Friendly Name handles this in a much smarter way for Vista. I can redirect Vista's User Files Folders to any location I wish. I could redirect the Music folder to H:\MP3s. As long as the Desktop.INI folder is there, specifying that the folder has the name -21790, Vista will know it is the Music folder. When the user chooses a French GUI (did I mention that Vista can change its language through the Control Panel? - very nice), Vista will happily tell the user that he is looking at the "Musique" folder. When the user saves things to H:\Musique, Vista will happily store the file in the only folder it has - H:\MP3s. Very slick.

The only time this doesn't work so well is when the user uses a command prompt window. The DOS window isn't into reading the Desktop.INI - as a result, it will have no idea what to do if the user specifies H:\Musique - the only folder it sees is H:\MP3s. This is only a slight annoyance since most users have no need to use a CMD window.

The only disappointment I have with this feature is that it locks me into using the default names that Vista associates with -21790. When first transitioning to Vista, I was considering redirecting the Users Files Folders to the old XP Personal Folders on the network so the users would have a familiar experience and know where to find things. This would have meant forcing the name of the Music folder to "My Music" (the old XP name). Unfortunately, to do that, I would have had to do away with -21790 and its abstraction features. This would mean that my French users would also see "My Music" rather than "Ma Musique". This would force me back to a French specific OS and the same folder issues I had with XP. I have no desire to go back to that, so I am forced to live with the folder names Microsoft has chosen for Vista.

A more mature version of the Friendly Name feature would allow me to specify multiple names in the Desktop.INI - one for each language I wish to support. Perhaps this is something we will see in future versions. Until then, I must remain with default names and ignore all the apparent flexibility of Vista.

No comments: