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  • Gilad Almosnino

Windows 10 Globalization Walkthrough for Bi-Directional Languages - Desktop Shell

Microsoft recently released a major update for its Windows 10 operating system and is estimated to have reached an install base of over 800 million active users. The World Ready Guides wanted to take this milestone in order to perform a globalization walkthrough focused on Bi-Directional languages.

About Globalization Walkthrough

Globalization walkthroughs examine international UX and functionality across a product or feature:

UX Design reviews provide an opportunity to ensure that international design requirements are taken into account and identify potential design gaps and limitations that may deteriorate the experience for international users.Functionality Reviews examine feature functionality with a focus on international environment configurations and use cases. Test Localized UI Functionality and international text input. Test End to End integration & cross-platform consistency.

Recommended Reading

If you are unfamiliar with design requirements for Bidirectional languages (BIDI) please check out our recent article on UX Best Practices For Bi-Directional Languages.

Walkthrough Environment

We setup the latest OS build and installed English, Arabic, and Hebrew language packs.

English UI is used for reference and also helps examine certain design elements for multilingual support

Arabic & Hebrew UI is used to review UI mirroring, Complex Script rendering, Native Digits and Lunar calendar support, and Arabic specific design requirements which differ from Hebrew

Desktop and Taskbar

Our initial review of the Desktop found no issues, but after transitioning to the Tablet Modethe desktop background image flipped and displayed in mirrored form. Pressing the Task View button while in Tablet Mode deteriorated the experience as the desktop background flipped directional orientation back and forth.

Start Menu Tiles and Notifications Center

Bidirectional text support in Tiles and Notification Center requires that content layout and alignment automatically adjusted based on the source language, but in recent Windows 10 builds we have found that the text layout direction and alignment is producing an inconstant experience in Tiles and the Notification Center, where Arabic or Hebrew text is often left aligned and English text is often right aligned. In addition we also noticed that the Photo App tile was displaying mirrored images when the UI language was swapped for Arabic or Hebrew. Note that this is a regression in behaviure from previous releases.

The Battery Tray had no issues for Hebrew, but in Arabic we found that the percent symbol was positioned incorrectly and should be placed on the left for Arabic.

The Sound Tray has opted to implement a horizontal slider for the Sound volume, in most cases the recommendation is to have all multimedia controls retain left to right orientation, such is the case with this specific slider. In addition, the keyboard shortcuts are flipped, pressing the left arrow decreases the sound volume while the right arrow increases the sound volume. Right clicking on the Sound Tray revels a context menu, we found that the arrow indicator for the submenu was not mirrored correctly.

Date and Time

The Gregorian calendar remains a popular choice across most western markets including the Americas and the Europe, Other markets based in Asia and the Middle East often relay on Lunar based calendars to track national and religious events. The team at Microsoft recently added the ability to display alternate calendars in the Task bar, this option is available via the Date & Time Control Panel Page. The design allows the user to display alternate calendars for Simplified Chinese (China) and Traditional Chinese (Taiwan), Other major markets were not offered the ability to display alternate calendars including: Japan, Korea, Thailand, Iran, India (Hindi), Israel, and Arabic Markets. Note that Microsoft provides a rich list of alternate calendar support in its Windows 10 Calendar App, highlighting how large-scale products often have international design gaps that boil down to individual teams.

Task View and History (Win+Tab)

This recent addition to Windows 10 enables users to jump back into browsing and app history. Prior to the May update this feature was released to the public with a major UI mirroring bug for BIDI languages, each time the Task View experience was invoked it would present the desktop background and programs in mirrored form. This nasty bug was only partially fixed in the May 2019 update, While the desktop background is now presented correctly, we found that dragging and dropping programs presented the selected elements in mirrored form.

Video Sample of the Task View mirroring bug that was shipped as part of the Windows 10 Creators update:

History View

In the History view we found two primary issues, Tile headers were aligned based language, so when a tile header was English it is left aligned and when displaying Arabic or Hebrew it is right aligned, this causes the design to look sloppy, often leaving a large gap between the Tile icon and header. Tile headers should align based on the UI language in order to produce a more consistent layout experience that matches the OS UI language and layout. On the other hand, we found the Tile content was always aligned based on the UI language, often leaving the text incorrectly aligned and difficult to read when content reached three lines of text.

Search Experience

The new search experience offers the ability to quickly execute web and local searches from the desktop, we found that under the recent history section Web addresses were presented with incorrect layout causing the trailing backslash to get misplaced. In the Email and AppSearch tabs we noticed reading order issues in some strings, this should have been handled via the localization process for RTL languages.

People Search

We executed searches for contact names in English, Arabic, and Hebrew and were surprised to find that contact name abbreviations are only being displayed for Latin based characters, seems kind of odd that something so simple such as contact name abbreviations would only be made available for some languages.

Web Search

In order to get this tab to display the operating system must be configured via the Time & Language settings to match a supported Bing location (United States). Seems that there is a misalignment between the Bing and Windows Search teams, as Bing web search is available in Arabic and Hebrew localized versions, yet users are required to tweak settings in order to execute web searches. Once we got web results to display, we found that the results were always right aligned regardless of content, often making English search results difficult to read.

Producing Inclusive products for multilingual users requires that you offer the same services regardless of language and region settings, the only exception in this space stems from market specific regulatory limitations.


Unfortunately, Cortana is not available in regions where Arabic, Hebrew or Persian are spoken, it seems that Microsoft is struggling to expand its Cortana offerings into international markets because of language based speech recognition limitations, and narrow Bing market coverage which is used to power local market intelligence.

Walkthrough Conclusion and Key Takeaways: Desktop Shell

Designing and developing for Bi-Directional languages is no easy task, it requires tight integration across UX, Dev, and Quality disciplines to ensure the release meets or exceeds quality expectations in terms of UI mirroring, functionality, and feature availability. The findings detailed in this walkthrough highlight significant UX design oversight, and basic quality control issues that should have been addressed prior to public availability.

How Microsoft can Improve

  • Educate and engage Design, Development, Program Management, and Quality teams on BIDI market requirements.

  • Invest in engineering system solutions that will simplify development of Mirrored UI.

  • Create workflows that allow Design and Program management resources to streamline BIDI UX across the products.

  • Ensure Development and Quality teams perform product testing on Arabic, Hebrew, or Pseudo Mirrored localized builds.

Check out the second part of our Windows 10 globalization walkthrough

Windows 10 Globalization Walkthrough for Bi-Directional languages - Text Input Experience

What's Next?

The World Ready Guides plan to engage with the world's leading software producers by publishing product reviews that focus on software globalization, our goal is to raise more awareness within the design community by providing practical real-world examples sourced out of today's most popular software products.

Feel free to reach out, via Email or

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