Five essential tools for the localization engineer
One of the most important features of a text editor for my job is that it has to deal with Unicode really well. I want to be able to display any old language in my editor without seeing those empty squares or garbled characters (we so very aptly call mojibake). It also has to be able to perform actions on multiple files at once. And well, it does have to support regular expressions. Oh, and being able to programme macros would be needed as well. And maybe syntax highlighting would be nice too.
As you might have guessed, Notepad does not fit that bill. Not many editors do in fact. But Just Great Software’s EditPad Pro does so wonderfully. Just have a look at the Convert menu...
It’s like a magical toolbox for all things localization.
Support for regular expressions is simply stellar. Not surprising if you know that the man behind the company Just Great Software is Jan Goyvaerts, author of the Regular Expressions Cookbook. I’ve heard rumours that Notepad++ is just as good but I see no reason to ditch EditPad Pro.
If you want to manipulate files on a larger scale (thousands of files in nested folder structures for example) then consider going for its bigger brother PowerGREP. It has a rather big learning curve but it is very powerful. You can merge and split files, delete only files with certain matches, and so on. It saved me precious hours many times. Oh, and do remember to enable the creation of backups before clicking that “Replace” button (sorry again, you know who).
I do cheat on EditPad Pro when dealing with web related files like HTML, PHP or CSS. There I’m a big fan of Sublime Text, mostly because of the gazillion plugins that automate everything from minifying your CSS to checking the validity of your HTML. It’s more geared towards developers and is not always user friendly but it will make you feel really proud of yourself when you finally manage to install your first plugin.
The number of XML files we receive to translate has been on the rise every year. Dealing with XML in a text editor is of course perfectly possible but not always very handy. When you want to perform XPath searches, apply XSL transformation or generate DTDs or schemas, you need a specialised tool. At Yamagata Europe we’ve been using Altova’s XMLSpy for many years. As with many XML editors, you have to be patient when dealing with large XML files, but performance has improved over the years.
Comparing XML files is also possible using a tool from the same company called DiffDog. Indispensable if you only want to compare the XML tree and not the content for instance.
For command line junkies I can highly recommend XMLStarlet, a command line toolkit to query/edit/check/transform XML documents.
All about characters
I deal with characters day in day out. Come to think of it, you as well probably. I also come across more exotic characters from scripts like Bengali or Georgian. Searching for these characters can be done in a Windows utility called the Character Map. Using the dropdown to change the font, you also have a good overview of which characters are supported in a certain font. You can also search the Unicode value. A nifty trick to know the Unicode value of a character is to select it in MS Word and press Alt + X.
A more extensive tool to search for Unicode characters is Richard Ishida’s UniView. Mr. Ishida is the Internationalization Lead at the World Wide Web Consortium and sure does know his Unicode characters.
Always wanted to know where this emoji comes from?
Now you know.
Another famous name in our industry is Yves Savourel. He’s the main man behind the XLIFF standard and also behind Okapi, the Swiss Army Knife of Localization. Okapi can be described as a toolkit with all sorts of awesome localization goodies. It contains tools to convert encodings, change linebreak styles, convert files to XLIFF, compare translations, check the quality of translations, edit SRX segmentation rules, extract terms. And then some.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a screenshot is worth a million. I've been using SnagIt for many years now and have been very happy with it. You can easily make screenshots of just error messages, or complete windows. Adding annotations and arrows is easy peasy.
I can no longer count the number of issues I’ve been able to solve just looking at a screenshot. Problems with a website? If I get a screenshot and see multiple toolbars in Internet Explorer 8 then I know what the issue is. Just kidding, Internet Explorer always is the issue.
Sending me issue reports like “It doesn’t work” are consistently countered with “Screenshot of the problem please”. And lo and behold sometimes they actually send me a screenshot of an error message that contains valuable text. Throw it in Google and presto, a solution is never far away. Except of course when the only hit is a lonely cry on an obscure help forum, made by yourself years ago, without any single response.
To get screengrabs from websites, you can use a Chrome plugin called Awesome Screenshot. You can make annotations quite easily and sharing too is very straight-forward.
A very handy but not very known tool in Windows 7 is the Problem Step Recorder. Useful if you want to show how you produced a certain bug. It records all the steps you make, including a description on where you clicked and saves it all into a single mht file. Beware that these files are often blocked by e-mail security policies, even when inside zip files.
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