As personal computers have spread around the world and the Microsoft Windows operating system has gained new international capabilities, Office has followed suit. Because of its close ties to text, Microsoft Word has always had significant support for multiple languages. From Microsoft Office 97 to Microsoft Office XP, this support has expanded dramatically with each new release, thanks to its built-in Unicode support. In addition to Word, other applications such as Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Access, Microsoft FrontPage, Microsoft Publisher, and Microsoft Project have moved to Unicode as well, and all of these products continue to support additional languages with each new release. Moreover, in terms of e-mail, Outlook supports Unicode, along with other national and international encodings in the body of the e-mail, and its developers are in the process of making Outlook completely Unicode-based.
The international support available in Office can help you design and develop an application that is world-ready in two ways. First, because the entire Office suite itself is world-ready, its applications offer an excellent design and development model for your own application. Second, Office is a powerful tool for creating applications if you develop add-ins or other code that calls the programmable object models of each application. (For more information, see "Alternatives" later in this chapter.)
For years, the Office team provided language support for customers in particular markets with the implicit assumption that most people in the world use their native language and perhaps English. Accordingly, localized versions of applications were created that supported the specific target language and market. Some languages-such as those with complex scripts-required special enabling and additional features, including the ability to handle right-to-left (RTL) text, contextual shaping, combining characters, and bidirectional text. As a result, special teams-devoted to enabling Office applications for a specific language and market-created forked versions of applications, whereby each language version contained its own unique source code (which was separate from source code used in other language versions).
With Office 97 this approach of creating a localized version for each target language began to change. Development teams for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint decided to use Unicode to simplify internal development. The Microsoft Office 2000 team strove to globalize the Office suite, making it more attractive to large multinational corporate customers who wanted to deploy the software worldwide and not be concerned with managing different language versions. Support for East Asian languages was merged with support for languages that use complex scripts-such as Arabic and Hebrew-into a single version that supported pluggable language resources.
The Office XP team extended the globalization push of the Office 2000 team by including any additional languages supported by Microsoft Windows 2000 and Microsoft Windows XP. (These languages include Thai, Hindi, Tamil, Armenian, and Georgian, among others.) The following section provides details about the availability of Office.