Example of how to use Visual Studio IDE language switching

Recently, I wrote a couple of blog post (here and here) about how to enable multi-lingual development scenarios by taking advantage of the Visual Studio IDE UI language switching feature. I would like to add to those previous posts by showing an example of using this feature, including some screenshots.

For this example, I will use the English and French versions of the Visual C# 2005 Express Edition. However, it works equally well for any version and UI language of Visual Studio.

I configured my system as follows:

  1. I installed the English version of the Visual C# 2005 Express Edition
  2. I launched the VC# IDE to verify that everything worked as expected
  3. I installed the French version of the Visual C# 2005 Express Edition
  4. I launched the VC# IDE again to verify that everything still worked. The UI remained in English even though I had installed the French version because this setting was set to use English UI when I launched the IDE in step 2 above

Now that I have both the French and English versions of VC# Express installed, I can easily switch IDE UI languages. When I launch the IDE with English UI, it appears as follows:

Visual C# 2005 Express Edition IDE with English UI

Once I launch the IDE with English UI, I can do the following to change the UI language to French:

  1. Click on the Tools menu and choose Options...
  2. Check the Show all settings check box at the bottom left of the screen (which is unchecked by default in the VS 2005 Express Editions)
  3. Click the International Settings option under the Environment item in the tree control on the left side of the Options dialog
  4. Select francais in the Language drop down
  5. Click OK to confirm the language change and then press OK on the notification dialog that appears to indicate that the IDE must be restarted for the change to take effect
  6. Close and reopen the IDE

The English Options dialog looks like the following:

Visual C# 2005 Express Edition English international settings dialog

After following the above steps and then reopening the IDE, VC# will appear as follows:

Visual C# 2005 Express Edition IDE with French UI

I am able to change the language back to English by using the same set of steps as listed above, except I need to refer to the French translation for each of the IDE UI elements. The French Options dialog looks like the following: 

Visual C# 2005 Express Edition French international settings dialog

In addition to using the steps listed above, I can change the IDE UI language by using the following command lines:

  • To launch the IDE with English UI: %ProgramFiles%\Microsoft Visual Studio 8\Common7\IDE\vcsexpress.exe /LCID 1033
  • To launch the IDE with French UI: %ProgramFiles%\Microsoft Visual Studio 8\Common7\IDE\vcsexpress.exe /LCID 1036

It is important to note that when using the /LCID command line switch, the default UI language will be updated in the registry when Visual Studio launches. That means that if you had previously configured VS to launch in English and you then pass in /LCID 1036, you will set the default language to French. That means that when you close the IDE and reopen it using the Start menu shortcut it will continue to appear with French UI until you change it in the International Settings section of the Options dialog or launch the IDE with /LCID 1033.

One other interesting note that I want to emphasize here - IDE language switching will be available even if you don't install the exact same edition of Visual Studio for each language. For example, you can install the English Visual Studio Team Suite and the French Visual Studio Professional. However, the only UI that will correctly switch languages will be components that are common to the two editions that you install on your system. So you might see a mix of two different UI languages depending on what editions you have installed on your system and what features you use within the IDE. In addition, there are limitations in the UI language fallback mechanism for some IDE features, so you may see some features missing from the IDE even though the feature is installed for one of the two UI languages.

<update date="2/10/2011"> Fixed broken links to images used in this post. </update>