Adobe InDesign Tips: Japanese/CJK Functionality + English UI—Redux

Dr Ken Lunde
5 min readNov 5, 2019

By Dr Ken Lunde, Janitor, Spirits of Christmas Past

Ipublished a CJK Type Blog article in April of 2017 that enumerates nine specific steps that allows one to expose Japanese text layout functionality in Adobe InDesign while preserving an English-language UI. These steps have proven to work time and time again, with each subsequent major update of InDesign, which, like clockwork, torpedoes my preferred working environment. Though the nine-step process works, it is arguably convoluted.

The good news is that there is a much easier way.

One of the things that I learned during my final few months at Adobe is that a tweak to a single character in a specific file—or Registry entry, in the case of Windows—can effect the same change.


A non-zero number of Adobe customers—yours truly included, now that I truly am a customer—have an ongoing need to author documents with Japanese or CJK content, but prefer an environment that exposes an English-language UI. This is not to claim that such customers cannot read or otherwise understand a Japanese-language UI, but rather that they simply prefer an English-language UI. Software should be flexible in this way.

Luckily, and as I indicated in the beginning of this article, I came up with a nine-step process that benefits such customers, which I recently discovered can be reduced to a tweak to a single character in a particular file…

For macOS

Adobe InDesign 2020 was released this month, which provided yet another opportunity to confirm that a tweak to a single character is all that is necessary to expose Japanese text layout functionality while preserving an English-language UI.

The image below shows the default (English UI) Character Styles and Paragraph Styles panels:

Character Styles Panel—Default
Paragraph Styles Panel—Default

Although it was mentioned in the CJK Type Blog article that other parts of the UI are affected, additional screenshots were not provided. One in particular that is useful for Japanese, because the UI change exposes several OpenType features, is the Glyphs panel, whose default English-language UI is shown below:

Glyphs Panel—Default

The following is the path to the file that needs to be tweaked (if you are using an older version of Adobe InDesign, you simply need to replace “Adobe InDesign 2020” with the appropriate folder name):

/Applications/Adobe InDesign 2020/Presets/applicationpreferences/indesign/

Of course, if you use the Terminal app to navigate to the path shown above, you either need to surround the entire path in quotes, or prefix the two instances of space in “Adobe InDesign 2020” with a backslash as follows:

/Applications/Adobe\ InDesign\ 2020/…

The tweak is to the file applicationpreference.plist, specifically to change the value that is associated with the Feature Set Locale Setting key, from 256 (English) to 257 (Japanese), which affects a single character:


The only other possible setting for this value is 259, which exposes full Middle Eastern (aka Arabic) text layout functionality.

NOTE: Due to permissions settings, editing the file in its path may be difficult. An easier way is to first copy the file elsewhere, modify it, then copy it back. When using the Terminal app, prefixing the command line with sudo, which will prompt for the administrator password, may be necessary.

The end result can be seen in the screenshots shown below, with additional Japanese functionality outlined in red:

Character Styles Panel—Japanese
Paragraph Styles Panel—Japanese
Glyphs Panel—Japanese
Vertical Type Tools—Japanese

Pretty cool, right?

For Windows OS

Making the comparable change for Adobe InDesign running on Windows OS involves using the Registry Editor (regedit), and although I don’t use Windows OS, it seems easier than the tweak required for macOS.

NOTE: Editing the Windows Registry can entail risk. While the tweak that I describe below involves only a single character, please do so at your own risk.

The tweak is to a Registry entry for the following (again, using Adobe InDesign 2020 as the example):


Specifically, the value for the entry Feature Set Locale Setting should be changed from its default of 100 (0x00000100 or 256 decimal) to 101 (0x00000101 or 257 decimal) to expose Japanese functionality.

And like for macOS, the only other possible setting for this value is 103 (0x00000103 or 259 decimal), which exposes full Middle Eastern (aka Arabic) text layout functionality.

Again, very straight forward, and pretty cool, right?

ADDED on 2023-10-20: Everything that I described in this article, though written when Adobe InDesign 2020 was current, also applies to Adobe InDesign 2021 through 2024.


About the Author

Dr Ken Lunde worked at Adobe for over twenty-eight years — from 1991-07-01 to 2019-10-18 — specializing in CJKV Type Development, meaning that he architected and developed fonts for East Asian typefaces, along with the standards and specifications on which they are based. He architected and developed the Adobe-branded “Source Han” (Source Han Sans, Source Han Serif, and Source Han Mono) and Google-branded “Noto CJK” (Noto Sans CJK and Noto Serif CJK) open source Pan-CJK typeface families that were released in 2014, 2017, and 2019, is the author of CJKV Information Processing Second Edition (O’Reilly Media, 2009), and published over 300 articles on Adobe’s now-static CJK Type Blog. Ken earned BA (1987), MA (1988), and PhD (1994) degrees in linguistics from The University of Wisconsin-Madison, served as Adobe’s representative to the Unicode Consortium since 2006, was Adobe’s primary representative from 2015 until 2019, serves as Unicode’s IVD (Ideographic Variation Database) Registrar, attends UTC and IRG meetings, participates in the Unicode Editorial Committee, became an individual Unicode Life Member in 2018, received the 2018 Unicode Bulldog Award, was a Unicode Technical Director from 2018 to 2020, became a Vice-Chair of the Emoji Subcommittee in 2019, published UTN #43 (Unihan Database Property “kStrange”) in 2020, and became the Chair of the CJK & Unihan Group in 2021. He and his wife, Hitomi, are proud owners of a His & Hers pair of acceleration-boosted 2018 LR AWD Tesla Model 3 EVs.



Dr Ken Lunde

Chair, Unicode® CJK & Unihan Group—Almaden Valley—San José—CA—USA—NW Hemisphere—Terra—Sol—Orion-Cygnus Arm—Milky Way—Local Group—Laniakea Supercluster