AS THE INTERNET brings people from across the globe to the front door of your electronic-commerce site, you may find that your software needs to go to language school.
If you find yourself managing an internationalization effort, Multilizer Java Edition, Standard, 2.0 from InnoView Data Technologies Ltd. may prove itself an invaluable asset in your drive to create multilingual applications.
Multilizer should quickly increase the comprehensibility and utility of your applications across the globe, thereby increasing the revenue potential of your e-commerce efforts. Data Technologies offers several affordable versions of Multilizer that support different computing platforms and programming languages. Surprisingly, Microsoft C++ is not one of these, and you should look at competing tools, such as Catalyst 2.5 Enterprise from Corel if you require the language. We chose to test the Java version of Multilizer, but you can select the version that fits your development needs; all versions of Multilizer can translate code to multiple idioms.
You'll also need to decide whether you want the Standard edition, which supports a range of European languages (such as French, German, and Greek) or the Professional edition, which is required for Middle Eastern and Far Eastern languages such as Hebrew, Arabic, Japanese, and Chinese.
To translate your application to another language, you need to store all the code strings from your original application into a dictionary, along with the translation of each string in each target language. You also need to modify your existing applications so they will be able to use the dictionary once it's been created. For this purpose, Multilizer includes two components: Language Manager, which automatically creates the dictionary, and the programming language-specific tools (in our case, JavaBeans) that you add to your applications so they can access the dictionary.
I was pleased to discover that the dictionaries created by Language Manager can be reused across other platforms and development environments, saving your developers time and reducing costs. For an additional $2,400, Multilizer Dictionary Server, lets you concentrate your translations in a Web-accessible central repository. You can then connect the dictionary to multiple distributed applications over the Web or the network.
Language Manager employs a wizard to help you get started. This wizard helped me choose the idioms I was targeting for deployment and helped locate my code.
Shortly, I had a table with the text for translation in one column and an additional column for each target tongue.
Without leaving Language Manager, I began to translate each sentence. This is a delicate, albeit boring, activity that is best carried out by a language expert rather than a developer so translations will be accurate. Fortunately, Language Manager is so easy to use that no programming skills are required.
Once my translations were finished, I moved to a third-party Integrated Development Environment (IDE) so that I could teach my applications to use the new idioms. Multilizer integrates with several leading Java IDEs, including JBuilder from Inprise, Symantec VisualCafe, and IBM VisualAge for Java.
Following Multilizer's installation instructions, I set JBuilder to include the Java classes of Multilizer in its CLASSPATH then to add the Multilizer Java Beans to its palette.
I dragged in the Dictionary Bean and adjusted its properties to point to my Multilizer dictionary. After a few mouse clicks, my application was using the Multilizer dictionary and was able to display text in different languages.
Multilizer's Java Beans can detect the user's current language from his or her operating system and automatically switch to the proper translation.
Multilizer is a well-rounded product, but part of my wish list is for the Language Manager to include project control capabilities, which could help reduce errors.
Multilizer Java Edition earned a score of Very Good thanks to its capability of merging easily into existing environments, its reasonable price, support for countless languages, and its capability of sharing an idiom dictionary with other programming languages.
Mario Apicella (email@example.com) is a senior technology analyst for the InfoWorld Test Center.
Consultants can help extend business reachThe adage "When in Rome, do as the Romans" doesn't apply only to human conduct.
When doing business with other countries, your software applications must adapt to different cultural environments and languages. Doing so will ensure swifter sales and happier customers.
But what might surprise you is just how much time and effort is required to translate software code to another idiom. It can be so complex, in fact, that many companies choose to hire professional consultants with proper skill and a good track record to take control of the globalization side of software development.
The major factors to consider when deciding whether to outsource your internationalization project are turnaround time, application complexity, cost of infrastructure, and quality assurance (QA) issues.
* Time usually means money, and a company that specializes in localization can provide faster results by pinpointing problem areas and avoiding the time-consuming trial-an-error approach.
* If your globalization project has limited scope and duration, outsourcing will probably be less expensive than hiring in-house language expertise.
* Setting up a development and testing environment for globalization could require investments in infrastructure, such as new office space, computers, software, and office furniture that you could avoid by outsourcing.
* If your company does not have an ironclad QA structure, an external localization partner could supply its own QA methodology and experience, thereby reducing significantly the chance that you'll have error-prone results.
But perhaps even more important than all these concerns, an experienced translation consultant can help you navigate through the labyrinth of cultural mores and technical challenges that translation brings. Our computers--from the hardware to the operating system to the simplest application--are shaped around our cultural model. For example, a standard U.S. keyboard will work well for English, but to translate your applications to even another Western language, you will need a keyboard with the proper keys for accented vowels.
Languages such as Japanese and Chinese have too many symbols to be represented on a keyboard. Therefore, typing in these languages requires an interactive electronic wizard that presents a list of symbols from which the typist can choose. Storing Chinese or Japanese text in computer format is troublesome because ASCII code does not have enough combinations to store the tens of thousands of symbols. To convert an application from English to Japanese or Chinese you will need to store each target symbol using two bytes.
A new standard called Unicode promises unified coding for all characters sets.
It will eventually cover all languages, but for practical adoption Unicode's standard coding must be included in operating systems worldwide. Until Unicode is generally available, translating an application will likely require a language-specific operating system for the target language and multiple keyboard layouts to account for dialectical differences among languages.
Unicode will only facilitate switching from one language to another on the same computer. Your international electronic-business initiative will need more aggressive support than that. You'll need skilled personnel who are fluent in the target languages and familiar with a country's cultural mores so you can avoid humiliating faux pas that often occur when businesses attempt language translation. Until you're able to commit significant long-term resources to globalization, outsourcing can prove a worthwhile and reassuring investment.
THE BOTTOM LINE: VERY GOOD
Multilizer Java Edition, Standard, 2.0
Summary: Multilizer Standard offers multi-platform developers easy-to-use tools to dynamically translate applications to most Western languages. The Professional edition supports Middle Eastern and Far Eastern idioms, as well.
Business Case: Multilizer uses a common dictionary external to the code, which allows users to translate applications to multiple human languages in a single, deployable module. This should reduce maintenance and deployment costs for your applications.
+ Easy integration with leading Java IDEs+ Flexibility deploying single or separated modules for multiple deployment languages+ Dictionaries are centralized and application-and platform-independentCons:
- Does not include project control functionalityCost: $380; Professional edition (required for Eastern languages), $780Platform(s): Dependent on your chosen IDE; Language Manager runs on Windows 95/98 and NTInnoView Data Technologies Ltd.; Helsinki, Finland; 358-9-4762 0553; www.multilizer.com