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Mon 02 Feb 2004
Category : Technology/polyglot.txt
We now have two (contributed) localisations for Postfix Enabler, one in Traditional Chinese and one in French.
In case you're wondering how people could contribute a localisation, this is the way it's done in OS X. If you click on Postfix Enabler in the Finder, and simultaneously hold down the Control (Ctrl) key, you will see a pull-down menu appear, so you can do a Show Package Contents, which will open up Postfix Enabler as though it's a folder.
Navigate down the folder until you find the Interface Builder file (in Contents/Resources/English.lproj/MainMenu.nib). If you've installed the OS X Developer Tools, you will have Interface Builder installed, which will allow you to make a copy of MainMenu.nib, open it, and also edit it.
If you take care not to disturb the structure of the interface, e.g., the size of the windows and other parameters, and restrict yourself to working on the textual elements in the interface, it's quite easy to change the words on the interface into any language you want, if the you have the text input method installed on your Mac. You can open the International panel under System Preferences and switch the Mac to use any of a dozen other languages, and then it's a simple matter of highlighting a text field anywhere on the interface and overwriting it with an equivalent text string in the language that you want to translate the application into.
Then you send the "localised" MainMenu.nib file back to the author of the application, and, in less than a minute, he has a French or Chinese localisation bundled in and ready to be used. It's really that simple.
The problem comes when the author makes a new version of the software. If you're the translator, you can take the new version, make a new copy of the Interface Builder file, and do the translation all over again. Without automated tools, all you can do is to look into the older version that you did the translation on (if you did remember to keep a copy), and do a lot of copy and paste to get the new version up to where you were last on, and then work on translating whatever is new on the new version. After doing this a few times, it all starts to be tedious, and you wished you never volunteered to do the trsnslation in the first place.
Now what we need are automated tools that will magically compare the new version with an older localised version, somehow bring all the translations that were done before over to the new version, and then let the translator concentrate only on the new things that have appeared on the interface. Mistakes can crop up if the translator works on the Interface Builder files, so it'll be better if the translator does the translations on a text file which, again magically, can be used by the system to create the new version of the localised application, automatically.
I say "magical" but such a tool indeed exists. It can be found, if you are a subscriber to the Apple Developer Connection, in the monthly CD/DVD mailer. The tool is called AppleGlot, and I've just discovered, it is also available for download on-line.
It's a wonderful tool. I've got my friend, Hai Hwee, to try it out updating Kuo Yuan-Fen's Traditional Chinese localisation of Postfix Enabler from 1.0.7 to 1.0.9 and it works. We've just bumped our productivity up several notches. Now, when I update Postfix Enabler to version 1.1 from 1.0.9, I just have to work on the English version, send the new version to the translators so that they have a context to work on, but they will work on a text file (called the Glossary file), and send that back to me, which I will use to create new localised versions of the application automatically. Today, Singapore; tomorrow, the world. Did I ever mention why I call the Mac the Ultimate Business Machine?
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