Localisation of Silverlight projects after completion (Part 1 of 3)

So, you’ve created a Silverlight app for you client… It was so well received they now want to take it global!

Before you start shouting hooray, the question you need to ask yourself is “did you take localisation into account when you created the application?”

If your project had a typical short time-frame and small budget, then the answer is “probably not”. At this point you might be starting to sweat a little as you just know they are going to ask you “how long will it take to add new languages?“.

Options:

  1. Create multiple version of the application (so many downsides how dare you even consider it?).
  2. Use language specific resource files for different assets (one per page, per locale).
  3. Fetch and replace the strings using code-behind (and lots of code).
  4. Some combination of 2 and 3, usually involving very (very) long binding expressions to fetch values.
  5. Using simpler bindings and using the application resource dictionaries for storage.
  6. Something new

After looking at the available options in Silverlight, against the requirements of localisation for our project (which I am betting are similar for most Silverlight projects), I came to the conclusion that most publicised methods for Silverlight localisation were too weighty.

Option 5 (simpler bindings) was initially the preferred option and it worked something like this:

  • Use a binding like Text={Binding L_MainMenuTitle}.
  • Insert a dictionary item, of type System.String, under the key L_MainMenuTitle.
  • Manage language changes by simply deleting and replacing name/key entries in the application resource dictionary.

I should point out that the above solution does work, and it works well, but it has some deficiencies:

  • The developer is required to insert [generally] unreadable keys into binding expressions.
  • The developer must manage the adding of new strings to the language database/files.
  • It is intrinsically difficult to track usage of any given key value throughout a large project.

Our final solution (something completely new)

The requirements for localisation of your Silverlight project may run something like this:

  • You want the translated strings to be stored in a centralised location for easy of translation and maintenance.
  • You only need one language at a time to be visible.
  • You only want to download to the client the selected language.
  • You probably would not want to change the current language while in the middle of a critical operation (like form entry).
  • You want to make it easy for the developer to add new strings without worrying about maintaining a database.
  • You want to make it easy for localisation testers to edit and view changes inside the running application.

- “Centralised” and selectable, in a Silverlight application, straight away says server database and RIA services to me.

- Not requiring an instantaneous update negates the huge overhead of every string being a bindable INotifyPropertyChange property.

- Making it easy for the developer implies some form of automation, or integration, with the pages and project is required.

So how does it work? What magic did we perform to meet all the requirements above (and then some)? Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon.

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