Windows ME: Using multiple keyboard languages

It's not often anyone would need to change the language setup of their keyboard, but it's a handy feature for people who come from non-English speaking backgrounds and who frequently touch base with overseas relatives via e-mail. For example, my relatives in Greece prefer to communicate with e-mails in Greek. Trying to type Greek words using English letters can become confusing and time consuming, as can making out what is being said - arguments can often be caused by misunderstandings!

From this scenario, you can see that it would make a whole lot of sense to change the language setup of my keyboard to send an e-mail and then change it back to its regular setting without making wholesale changes to my system for all my other tasks. Luckily, Windows Me (and Windows 98) allows this to be done with the press of a couple of buttons.

Note, though, that not all programs will support different languages, so a bit of trial and error will be needed. I found that with Hotmail and Outlook Express I was successfully able to send and receive e-mail typed in another language, but I wasn't able to send or receive successfully with Eudora.

Also note, for some languages, multi-language support will need to be enabled. You can do this through the Windows Setup tab in the Add/Remove Programs applet in Control Panel.


To set up your keyboard for multiple languages, open the Keyboard applet from the Control Panel and select the Language tab. The default language should be English (Australian). You will need to add the language you require to this list by clicking the Add. button. Select the language from the drop-down list and click OK. You may be prompted for your Windows Me CD, although on some systems you will be able to navigate to the Windows\Options\Cab directory instead. You should now have two languages listed in the dialogue box. Make sure that English is set as the default.


Now that you've installed your required language, you will want to be able to switch between that and your default language with no fuss. First, make sure that the keyboard indicator is shown in the System Tray area of your Taskbar (it will appear in blue near the clock). If it's not there, then you will have to place a check mark next to the box on the Language tab entitled 'Enable indicator on Taskbar'.

The Taskbar indicator will display the first two letters of the language you are using. When you single-click it, you will be able to change from the default language to your new language.

You can also invoke a language change via a keyboard shortcut. Unfortunately, you can't designate your own shortcut and you have only two options to choose between, which are Left - or -.

It is worth noting that when you change the language while using an application such as Microsoft Word, it will only apply to that application; switching to another application will revert you to the original English setting.

Always pay attention to the indicator so you know the keyboard's status.


With Windows Me (and Windows 98) you can paste text from documents directly onto your Desktop for later use. This is particularly useful when editing large documents, as your Desktop will be able to hold many more items than the Windows Clipboard, which it terms as Scraps.

To create Scraps, first resize your application so that a portion of your Desktop is visible. Then, select the text you wish to cut or copy and drag it onto the Desktop. Alternatively, you can select the text and use the Edit menu to Copy or Cut the text, then right-click your Desktop and select Paste. You don't have to limit yourself to the Desktop: you can use Windows Explorer to paste Scraps into a designated folder. And you're not limited to text, for Microsoft Paint allows you to treat images like Scrap too!

You will be able to distinguish between Scraps and regular documents by their icons, which resemble a torn piece of paper with coloured text on it, and their filenames, which feature the word Scrap.

Scraps are usable in two different ways: you can open them and treat them like a regular file by using all the regular Edit commands, or you can drag and drop them into your documents directly.

Unfortunately, not all applications support Scraps, Notepad being one of them.

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Elias Plastiras
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