International characters display incorrectly as square boxes in some Windows operating systems, but display correctly in Windows Vista


In ArcMap, attribute tables containing special international language characters with diacritical marks display as square boxes in Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows ME, or Windows NT 4.0 despite regional language settings. However, the characters show up correctly in Windows Vista.


A Unicode font is required to display international language characters.
The specific font is called 'Arial Unicode MS', which is normally distributed by Microsoft Office.

The reason ArcGIS is not able to display the character in an attribute table is that a Unicode font is needed to display special characters with diacritical marks such as 'Arial Unicode MS' font, which supports most Microsoft code pages on any Windows version.

Arial Unicode MS font is available by default in Microsoft Office 2007, the most updated released version.

Solution or Workaround

The following procedure describes the steps for installing the Arial Unicode MS font when Microsoft Office is installed.
Select the Arial Unicode MS font to display international language characters in ArcGIS, if special characters with diacritical marks or multiple languages are being stored in an attribute table.

The Arial Unicode MS font is installed as part of the Microsoft Office Setup and is part of the International Support features.

The data file type must be Unicode, such as a File Geodatabase or Personal Geodatabase feature class. A shapefile does not support Unicode characters.

  1. Click Start > Settings > Control Panel.

    In Microsoft Windows XP, click Start > Control Panel.

  2. In the Control Panel, double-click Add/Remove Programs.
  3. Complete one of the following:

    In Microsoft Windows 98, Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition (Me), or Microsoft Windows NT 4.0: On the Install/Uninstall tab, click Microsoft Office XP (or Microsoft Word 2002), and then click Add/Remove.


    In Microsoft Windows 2000, Microsoft Windows Server 2003 or Microsoft Windows XP: Click Change or Remove Programs, click Microsoft Office XP (or Microsoft Word 2002), and then click Change.
  4. In the Office setup, select Add or Remove Features and click Next.
  5. Select "Choose advanced customization of applications" by clicking on the check box. Click Next.
  6. Click to expand Office Shared Features.
  7. Click to expand International Support.
  8. Click the icon next to Universal Font, and then click 'Run All' from My Computer on the shortcut menu.
  9. Click Update to complete the installation of the Universal Font (Arial Unicode MS) to the computer.
  10. Once the font has been installed, open ArcMap and add the data with the international characters.

    Do not open the Attribute table until the next step is completed.

  11. Click Tools > Options > Tables tab.
  12. Set the Table Font to 'Arial Unicode MS' and click Ok.
  13. Open the Attribute table. The characters should display correctly.

Article ID:000010641

  • ArcMap

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