Lately we’ve been spending a lot of time on improving the usability of our tools by designing more straightforward user interfaces, building more intuitive workflows, and making sure we’re displaying all the right messages in the right places. But this only gets you so far. When a tool is in a language the user doesn’t speak, all of these usability improvements won’t make up for this barrier. But with recent user interface translation improvements for Drupal, we can improve usability for thousands of websites.

We are well on the way of having these translation problems fixed for Drupal, thanks largely to our great localization guru Gábor Hojtsy who recently released two impressive Drupal modules -  the Localization Client, which provides on-page localization editing, and the Localization Server, which provides a community localization editor.

Here's a look at one of the new tools - the Localization Server:


I’ve spent some good time this month working with them both and wanted to share with you why they are so exciting. But first, let me explain the problem in a little more detail. To have a truly usable interface in different language, you need a high quality translation. And to get that, you need to provide translators with the right tools and an easy to follow workflow so they can get the translations right and be fired up to do the translations in the first place. That’s especially important in the open source software world where we have thousands of translators willing to help but no way for them to easily do so. In Drupal, to translate text in the user interface you have to 1) edit string, 2) export po file, 3) post to the issue tracker, 4) follow up, and 5) have someone else to check and commit it. This inhibits the quantity and quality of the translations in Drupal.  

The two new modules will go a long way towards fixing this problem. 

Localization Client

Gabor's work on translating strings in the right context has produced the Localization
Client
, which allows for “just in time” translation in the same page that the text will appear. Young did some great UI improvements on this while working closely with Gabor and now Drupal sites have this awesome tool. We posted a screencast in the fall if you want to see how the tool works.

On a site-by-site basis, this is a huge improvement. But what if we had better and full translation packages to start with so you almost never had to translate anything? If we can crowd source the translation process and provide the people, even those with no technical knowledge, with an easy way to contribute translations, then we’ll all start off with a bigger translated base of text. The Localization Server helps make this possible. 

Localization Server

Out of the need to streamline the old translation workflow explained above came Localization Server. This module makes it really easy to translate texts and get their contributions into the deliverable language files. This is a great tool for doing community translations and handling different projects and releases.

The goal for this tool is for it to become the future translation interface on drupal.org and integrate with project releases and organic groups, and hopefully that will mean that we'll have a central translation system for every language soon.

Note: Only the l10n server is intended to be used in drupal.org.