Authoring multi-language MSI packages

By default, Windows Installer packages are single-language only — no direct support for multi-language packages is currently provided. Creating a multi-lanuage installation package is thus a little more compex — the following provides a summary of the steps required:

  • Create an english package
    • Compile

      candle -dLANG=1033 foo.wxs

    • Link

      light -out foo.msi -loc strings-en.wxl foo.wixobj

  • Create the german (or whatever language) package
    • Compile

      candle -dLANG=1031 foo.wxs

    • Link

      light -out foo-de.msi -loc strings-de.wxl foo.wixobj

    • Create a transform describing the differences between german and englich package:

      msitran -g foo.msi foo-de.msi de.mst

    • Embed the transform in the english package:msidb -d foo.msi -r de.mst

The boostrapper has to decide which language the installer package should use. To use english, call msiexec without any special parameters. To use german, pass the parameter TRANSFORMS=:de.mst to msiexec, which directs it to apply the embedded transform named de.mst before running the package.

To avoid creating a bootstrapper, you might want to try this. See also: WiX tutorial, Lesson 8.

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4 Responses to “Authoring multi-language MSI packages”


  1. 1 Joachim Back February 20, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Thanks for your summarize.

    You can even have it easier at compile time, if you work with language id property LANG as a localized property.
    You put
    1031
    in your german wxl and
    1033
    in your english wxl.
    You also set the @WixLocalization/Culture property to de-DE resp. en-US.
    Then the steps easy up to

    1. candle foo.wxs
    2. light -out foo.msi -loc strings-en.wxl foo.wixobj
    3. light -out foo-de.msi -loc strings-de.wxl foo.wixobj
    4. msitran -g foo.msi foo-de.msi de.mst
    5. msidb -d foo.msi -r de.mst

    Since the light steps take long, also think about
    2. lit -bf -out foo.wixlib -loc strings-en.wxl -loc strings-de.wxl foo.wixobj
    3. light -cultures:”en-US” -out foo-de.msi foo.wixlib
    4. light -cultures:”de-DE” -out foo.msi foo.wixlib
    5. msitran -g foo.msi foo-de.msi de.mst
    6. msidb -d foo.msi -r de.mst

  2. 2 jpassing February 20, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, Joachim. This should definitely speed up the build process.

  3. 3 jan September 3, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Many thanks for this article. It was very helpful for me, but I can’t do the last step: “The boostrapper has to decide which language the installer package should use.” Can you write a simple example of msbuild project that ilustrates how to do it?

    best regards, Jan


  1. 1 On Setup Bootstrap Loaders « JP’s Blog Trackback on May 24, 2009 at 4:28 pm
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About me

Johannes Passing lives in Berlin, Germany and works as a Solutions Architect at Google Cloud.

While mostly focusing on Cloud-related stuff these days, Johannes still enjoys the occasional dose of Win32, COM, and NT kernel mode development.

He also is the author of cfix, a C/C++ unit testing framework for Win32 and NT kernel mode, Visual Assert, a Visual Studio Unit Testing-AddIn, and NTrace, a dynamic function boundary tracing toolkit for Windows NT/x86 kernel/user mode code.

Contact Johannes: jpassing (at) hotmail com

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