Correcting the Windows 10 number formatting settings for the South African region

A while back I decided to bite the bullet and go for Microsoft’s free Windows 7 to Windows 10 upgrade offer.

I did cause myself a bit more pain than I needed to, because I decided it was also time to declutter my pc a bit, so I went for a full format-and-install (although the other PCs in my home I just put through the normal Windows Update upgrade routine).

As I started settling in, I soon realised that there we things about Windows 7 that I missed (like the Recent Places feature in Windows Explorer which has survived several Windows versions, but has been “upgraded” in Windows 10’s File Explorer. But there are also features in Windows 10 that are welcome additions (Virtual Desktops are very nice).

However, when I settled down to getting some serious work done, I quickly realised that there was a serious mistake in the regionalisation settings for Windows 10. Instead of the comma for the list separator (which it has always been in previous versions of Windows set to the South African region, and which, in fact, it was in Windows 7 before the update/upgrade), Windows 10 substituted the semicolon. And the decimal separator, which was always the period, was now the comma. This may seem like a small thing, but it led to all kinds of problems: Comma-separated files were not being imported properly into Excel or Access. Bank statement values were not being recognised, because the financial amounts used a period to indicate the decimal (as they should), Excel formulas now had to be typed with semicolons instead of commas to separate the arguments (it’s amazing how ingrained that habit of using commas was), etc. So I needed a solution.

A quick search on the Microsoft Community site revealed that I was not alone: But that, of course, didn’t help. The big issue was that when I wanted to change the items in question, the values I was looking for were not there. Specifically, in the Customise Format dialog (which I will show soon), the Decimal symbol and List separator boxes show only the comma and the semicolon, respectively, and clicking on the dropdown arrow for those boxes do not reveal the items I wanted (the period and the comma, respectively). I started preparing myself to edit the registry (and I will show this in a moment too), but just when I thought I was stuck, it occurred to me that these might not be list boxes, but combo boxes, and that even if what I wanted was not in the list, I could just type it in. And so, the (anticlimactically simple) solution is to just open the Customise Format dialog, and type in the correct values.

These are the steps: Right click on the Start button, and choose Control Panel (Figure 1).

Fig 1
Figure 1    Opening the Control Panel

In the Control Panel, choose Change date, time or number formats under the Clock, Language and Region group (Figure 2).

Fig 2
Figure 2    Control Panel

This opens the Region dialog. Here, click on the Additional settings… button (Figure 3).

Fig 3
Figure 3    Region dialog

This opens the Customise Format dialog (Figure 4), where you can type in the correct Decimal symbol and the correct List separator (the other settings are fine).

Fig 4
Figure 4    Customise Format dialog

Of course, it is so that you would have to do that for each user on the PC, and if it happens to be a PC with numerous users registered, and you are comfortable with editing the registry, then it may be quicker to correct these values for all users on the registry. To do this, right click on the Start button, and choose Run (Figure 5).

Fig 5
Figure 5    Opening the Run dialog

The type Regedit and click OK (Figure 6).

Fig 6
Figure 6    Run dialog

After asking your for the Administrator’s permission, this will open the Windows registry (Figure 7). Where you need to go is as follows: First, go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER>Control Panel>International.

Fig 7
Figure 7    Registry changes for Decimal symbol and List separator

There, double click on the sDecimal and sList keys, and type in the correct values (Figure 8).

Fig 8
Figure 8    Editing the sDecimal key

Next, go to HKEY_USERS, and then repeat the process for each listed user (e.g., .DEFAULT>Control Panel>International, etc.).

Simple as that.

However, remember these steps, as I would not put it past Microsoft to “correct” these settings during some or other update (although I do say that without any warrant).