Installing additional language support for Outlook Web Access

Exchange Server 2003 on Windows Server offers character support for English and most common European languages. Asian languages or any languages that feature right-to-left script (i.e., Arabic or Hebrew) are not installed by default.

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If you're using nothing but U.S. English in your organization, support for non-European languages is not needed. Additionally, the fonts and support files for those foreign languages can take up dozens of megabytes. (On a server with enough storage, the total overhead would be minimal, but it's still one more thing to deal with, and not everyone wants it installed by default.)

Because Exchange Server (and Windows Server itself) stores everything as Unicode, it's not that difficult to add support for messages in another language. This is also true for Outlook Web Access.

If you want to enable support for message traffic in a given language, go to Control Panel -> Regional and Language Options -> Languages to add support for new languages.

For Asian languages, there are two checkboxes on this page:

  • "Install files for complex script and right-to-left languages (including Thai)"
  • "Install files for East Asian languages"

If you deal with Asian-language message traffic at all, it's best to check both of these boxes to be on the safe side

Note that you do not need to click Details and add input services for the languages in question on that server -- unless you're actually going to be inputting text in those languages directly to the server console.

More on Outlook Web Access:
Freeware tools change Exchange Server mailbox language settings

OWA Administration Guide

Top 5 OWA tips of 2006

Outlook Web Access FAQs

Finally, if you have a front-end/back-end Exchange server configuration, the same changes need to be made on both the front end and back end.

For a two-node Exchange Server cluster, install the language pack on the existing passive node first, perform a failover, and then install the language data on the new passive node to minimize interruptions.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of Windows Insight, a newsletter devoted to hints, tips, tricks, news and goodies for all flavors of Windows users.


I use Japanese characters a lot, but they turn up as strings of alphanumeric characters (gobbley-gook) in Microsoft Outlook. I have the language packs installed and everything works fine in all other programs. I input through a Japanese keyboard with MS-IME. But my email from Hotmail in Japanese is gibberish. Do you have any ideas?
—Robert M.


This could be one of several problems.

First, I'd manually check the encoding on the email messages received in Microsoft Outlook (which you can do through the message's menu). Try setting it manually to Shift-JIS or Unicode, if it isn't one of those two already.

Microsoft Outlook may not be correctly detecting the encoding of incoming email messages and defaulting to Western European / Windows / ISO instead.
—Serdar Yegulalp, tip author

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This was first published in February 2007

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