Software GUI Localization

Graphical User Interface (GUI, pronounced “gooey”, for short) localization refers to the translation of the text strings that appear on icons, windows, dialog boxes, menus, check boxes, and error and status messages displayed on users’ screens. Today, GUIs are ubiquitous; they’re used by Mac, Windows, Android, and even most Linux-based operating systems but compared with purely text-based interfaces, a GUI can present a number of challenges for downstream localization.

For example, icons designed to fit English text often become either too big or too small once localized as a result of text contraction or expansion, hardcoded strings or even bitmap text often lead to missing translations in the localized software, and there are other issues such as font size problems and right-to-left layout mis-formatting. To avoid these problems, it’s essential that an experienced software localization service provider be hired to ensure not only the best translation quality, but also the most efficient GUI localization process.

What Can You Do as a Software Developer?

As a software publisher, there is much you can do to ensure the best outcome for your GUI localization project. Consider the following:

  • Make sure to select a software development tool that supports international character sets. The development tool should have built-in support for double-byte characters and right-to-left UI (User Interface) layouts for bi-directional languages such as Arabic or Hebrew. Most modern development environments (such as those for iOS, Android, Mac OS X and Windows 8) support these requirements out of the box, but double-check to make sure.
  • Separate all localizable elements from the main source code, which is also a best practice requirement for the MVC (model–view–controller) architecture. MVC divides a given software application into three interconnected parts, so as to separate internal representations of information from the ways that information is presented to or accepted from the user. Isolating localizable resources by putting them in a repository such as a Windows resource file (*.rc), .Net assembly file, or a database when dealing with web content ensures the greatest project efficiency.
  • Make sure that no hardcoded elements/strings (i.e. hardcoded messages, etc.) are used in the code. Hardcoded elements are difficult to localize because they do not show up until the localized software is compiled and executed. Again, all localizable strings should be separated into one or more resource files. The major program elements that require localization include: menus, messages, dialog boxes, prompts, images, sounds, toolbars, status bars, and constants.

There are a host of other considerations when undertaking a GUI localization project. For more information, you can contact our software GUI localization experts.

Cosmetic and Linguistic Validation

Some businesses conduct software GUI localization without requiring a separate localization testing service. While this approach can initially save some time and money, it usually leads to costly localization quality issues down the road, resulting in the need for reworks and delays. This is because linguists usually translate the strings in a tabular environment without the ability to reference the localized GUI in real time. Once the translated strings are compiled back into the runtime software, there can be slight changes that affect readability; the strings must be linguistically validated to ensure quality.. Linguistic validation checks all translations for correctness in context. Some of the translations may need to be shortened to eliminate truncation and to better fit the existing screen real estate. Linguistic validation also checks for missing translations that may have been caused by hardcoded strings or bitmap text.

The localized GUI also needs to go through cosmetic validation to ensure all text formatting, layout, and alignment are correct once the foreign language texts are incorporated into the user interface. Often times, dialog boxes need to be adjusted to better accommodate the localized strings. Other issues such as corrupted characters, incorrect text wrapping and inappropriate font and size must be fixed.

Localized Screenshot Capture

Once the software GUI has been localized, screenshots may be taken for use in user help documents. This is the reason that the GUI should always be localized before translation of user help and other documents starts. Starting with GUI localization will prevent rework on UI string translations that may need to be adjusted during linguistic and cosmetic validation. Furthermore, the localized GUI strings can be compiled into a terminology library that will help speed up the translation of user help files.

There are several ways that localized screenshots can be captured efficiently; some are 3rd party tools while custom scripts can be written to program automatic screenshot capture. Screenshots can also be taken manually by the localization service provider with the aid of a test case, or help system.

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