Office 2003: Set the default language

March 11, 2009

Office 2003 has several different programs — Word, Outlook, etc. — and each has an option to set the default language for the spellchecker. Most of the time it works.

But sometimes the default language is set to something you don’t want and it won’t hold the new setting when you change it. Case in point: English (US) is the default, but I want to set English (Australian) as my default language. It holds for Word, but it won’t hold for Outlook.

I found a solution to this thanks to a Google search — and in a place where I would never have thought to look!

  1. Go to Start > All Programs > Microsoft Office > Microsoft Office Tools > Microsoft Office 2003 Language Settings.
  2. You may get a message that the program cannot be installed. If so, you’ll need to find your Office 2003 CD, insert it, then click OK. It should install in a few seconds.
  3. Check the list of Enabled Languages on the right — select and click Remove for any you don’t want.
  4. Select the language you want as the default from the list at the bottom of the window, then click OK.
  5. If any Office programs are currently open you’ll be asked to either restart them now, or, if you choose to restart them later, you’ll get a message to say that the new default language settings will apply next time you start them.
Office 2003 Language Settings dialog

Office 2003 Language Settings dialog


  1. I did this, restarted Word, and my custom menus & tools have vanished, along with my AutoCorrects! I’m about to try to put it back together again. Handy tip about the language but this is a disastrous side-effect.

  2. Oh joy – it had renamed my normal.dot to normal.dot.old – unusually smart, Microsoft.

  3. I’m sorry to hear you had this experience — I don’t use custom menus and toolbars, nor auto corrects so I didn’t encounter this. I assume you could recover your old normal.dot with your customizations?

  4. I wonder if you can help me with this. I use dictation software – after I type each letter, I use the mouse to click a tool on the Word toolbar to execute a macro. I’d like the macro to press a function key (F12) BUT NOT to execute the Save As command (which is the default assignment for F12) – I’ve assigned F12 as my “Done” key in the dictation software. It can’t be recorded because in Word, F12 is the Save As key. Any idea what code I can use in VB to have it simply press F12? Thanks & regards – Cath

  5. What I suggest is that you ask this on the Word Discussion Group: https://www.microsoft.com/office/community/en-us/default.mspx then go to ‘Word’. They don’t have a subcategory for macros, so try the ‘General Questions’ category first. All the Microsoft Word MVPs hang out there, so hopefully someone can answer your question. You can also try the Microsoft Word MVP website: http://word.mvps.org/

  6. Did you figure this out? Like Cath said, when I switched the default language all my other settings and toolbars were lost. I got them back by renaming the normal.dot.old file, but I’d like to have the toolbars AND the language. If possible?

  7. Found the answer – there is a problem in the Normal.dot template.

    Need to open the template as itself. Right click and select Open not New. Drag the left hand and the top margins to the very top as far as it will go and to the very left as far as it will go. With the cursor at top, hold the Enter key down for about three pages then press Ctrl+A. Go to Tools and set the language to your default – as soon as it resets it brings the left hand margin in by itself and the language is at your default. Then save and close the template and then open Word to see if the problem has been fixed. It did for me.

  8. Wow, Colin — that sounds convoluted! Glad it worked for you.

  9. Rhonda.

    Sorry didn’t mean for it to sound complicated.

    Anyway, i found out that it didn’t really fix the problem.

    So went to the Microsoft people and they gave me the answer here http://support.microsoft.com/kb/292106. Remove all additonal keyboard layouts

    However, they suggest the settings are in the keyboard setup as the default language input but i didn’t find the settings they are talking about in this location. I found the setting in Regional and Language options in control panel.

    In my setup of the computer I had not removed the default American language input and had two inputs Australian and American. After I removed the American Default the problem really did go away.

    Go to Control Panel – Regional and Language options – Languages – Click the Details button – settings tab opens by default and see if you have more than one language listed. Or that you have only the Amercian Language listed in the installed services box. If there are more than one remove all but he one you need. Reboot your computer and the problem should go away as advised by Microsoft.

  10. Forgot to add that if you have only the American Language listed then you will need to add your default language and then remove the American Language input and then reboot your computer.

    I went the the Normal.dot template and the language box that shows the default language on the bottom of the page has disappeared and is set at my default language of Australia.

    Hope it all helps

  11. Thanks for all that extra information Colin! Sounds like you have found the solution.

  12. thanks Colin. What about if I want two languages available? I can’t delete all the others, because I often have to switch english-german. Did Microsoft suggest anything for that? (I’ll try asking them directly too.)

  13. Author: Chris
    thanks Colin. What about if I want two languages available? I can’t delete all the others, because I often have to switch english-german. Did Microsoft suggest anything for that? (I’ll try asking them directly too.)

    Sorry Chris didn’t think to ask that particular question. So i added a second language (German) it does seem a bit of a problem but not in the same way as the orginal problem. Word seems not to recognise the second language unless you force the issue by highlighting the existing page and resetting the language to your needs. But as soon as you step over what you highlighted and set it shifts back to your main default. So for the main issue as i don’t need a second language it fixed my problem. I guess you could set up a second Normal 2.dot template (on the desktop) with the default language set at German but don’t know if that would solve your problem temporarily either.

  14. I have tried to do this but when i try it on microsoft word 2003 its doesn’t type in a different language. Why is that?

  15. I try it. Thank for you help

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: