Thursday, January 11, 2007

Windows XP Annoyance

Ever since I upgraded my Windows machine it has insisted on weird paper sizes. Google Picasa showed crop sizes in cm and printing showed choices like A3 and A4 instead of Letter and Legal.

Eventually I tracked it down to choosing "English (Canada)" at some point in the Windows install. This shows up in the Control Panel > Regional and Language Options

Where should I start to complain about this?
  • When you choose "English (Canada)" during setup I'm pretty sure it doesn't give you any information or warning about what effect this has. I have a hazy memory of the question being phrased as "What is your language?" (nothing about units of measure or paper sizes)
  • Canada does use metric, so I can sort of see where the crop sizes in Picasa come from, but actually we still use inches for photo sizes e.g. 4 x 6, 5 x 7, 8 x 10
  • Canada does not use A3, A4, etc. paper sizes, we use Letter, Legal, Tabloid etc. When you go to the store to buy paper, that's what you find.
  • The Customize for the Regional Options doesn't even have a choice for centimeters versus inches or A3/A4 versus letter/legal.
The "solution" is to pick "English (United States)" even though I'm pretty sure I'm really in Canada.

Strangely, I don't recall having this problem before. Either something has changed or for some reason (it was the default?) I always made the right choice previously.

I realize many Americans think Canada is some obscure little outpost somewhere in the far north, but surely someone in Microsoft's hordes of developers and testers and QA people should know better! If nothing else, check and see what paper sizes they sell!


Larry Reid said...

I share Andrew's complaints, and if I get a chance later I'll add to them. Right now I just want to try to solve his problem.

Open the Control Panel and double click on Regional Settings. Click on the "Customize" button beside where it says "English (Canada)". Select the "Numbers" tab. At the bottom there should be a "Measurement System" drop-down. Select "U.S." instead of "Metric". As Andrew says, officially we're metric, but in all things office-supply-related we use the same standard as our neighbour to the south.

I don't have the software that Andrew mentioned, so I can't test, but I'm pretty sure that's what I've done to get all my Office apps to behave like a real Canadian would.

andrew said...

Thanks! I confirmed that fixes Google Picasa as well.

It's a bit more satisfying answer than having to pick "English (United States)". I should have looked closer but I was more in the mood to complain :-)

It's funny that what was originally a British measurement system is now referred to as "U.S.". (Of course, that's because the British abandoned it.)

Larry Reid said...

Andrew's original complaint is totally valid. I'm sure there's some software out there that cares that Canadians use kilometers and Celsius, but most of what you do with a computer doesn't. You do office-type stuff and print on paper that's still measured in inches.

For the only other locale that I felt I could comment on, Guatemala, exactly the same problem exists. They're metric (in a similar, half-implemented way as Canada), and use paper in U.S. sizes.

I've talked to a few people who've been involved in Microsoft localization, and it always seemed to me that they really put a lot of effort into getting it right. Tham makes it all the more interesting that they got this particular issue so wrong.

Is this an issue bigger than Andrew and I being inconvenienced? I think so. When I was younger you could count on the fact that numeric dates were dd/mm/yy. Now you can't. How many important events are missed because of confusion about whether "3/2/07" is the third of February or the second of March. Part of the creeping increase in use of mm/dd/yy in Canada is because most people in Canada fix the paper sizes in their office programs by using the U.S. locale, which also changes the date format.