Localization AOO

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Documentation note.png This page is about an older proposal, codename genLang, that probably never will be implemented.

Update: proposal for new workflow Localization AOO/new proposal and project plan Localization AOO/workPlan


This document is based on and extents Localization_for_developers. The document is work in progress showing the result of a detailed technical analysis of the current process (version 3.4.1) . As such this document should be seen as a replacement of Localization_for_developers.

The l10n process only concerns itself about localizing defined supported languages. Adding a new language is a i18 process. This document is further restricted to the ongoing translation process and closely related build process. In case of external happenings, like e.g. Germany changing rules of spelling, it should be covered with i18 procedures.

The document will hopefully spark a discussion so it can be updated with other views from the dev@openoffice.apache.org.

It is important to understand the current process before we start discussing detailed changes, so this is the main purpose of this page. Once all the open issues at the end of document have been discussed as solutions agreed upon, a new document will be made describing the process as it should be in the near future.

Thanks to all those persons who contributed to Localization_for_developers that has been a great starting point for this document.



Localization, often abbreviated as l10n, defines the process to make a software package available in local languages, different to the language of the developer.

Localization is from the perspective of the involved person a multi-step process that involves a variety of tools and procedures. Most importantly the 4 main categories of involved persons have quite different and to some extent conflicting views and requirement, therefore the process should be a real “best of all worlds” approach.

The current process is more or less purely developer oriented, contains a lot of different tools and depends a lot on the responsibility of the involved people. It seems to be a process that has grown out of necessity more than a planned road.

Most of the tools used as well as the central data format (SDF) are specific to AOO and not used anywhere else even though both source (c++, resource, UI files) and target (po files) are standard file formats.

Only a part of the workflow are integrated in the build system. Much of it requires manual steps to be taken. Some of the tools involved are not part of the OpenOffice SVN and, due to a hard disk crash of the old pootle server, are lost.

Translations are done with the help of a Pootle server. The localization work flow can very short be seen as:

  • extraction messages from source files.
  • uploading message to the Pootle server.
  • translating messages on the Pootle server.
  • downloading messages from the Pootle server.
  • merging messages into source files.

If you are looking for information about how to contribute translations then Localization gives an overview.

The document has 5 parts:

  • a relative non-technical overview of the process,
  • a detailed technical overview of the process,
  • a detailed technical data flow/storage view,
  • a detailed technical view of the tools used with parameters etc.,
  • an open issues list,

Actors and Systems

The l10n process can and should be viewed with respect to 4 different categories of people who access the process through 2 different systems. The translator considers Pootle server to be repository whereas the others consider SVN the main repository.

Localization AOO 1.jpg

Note: this view only relates to the l10n procedure, the picture for the whole project is a lot more complex.

The red lighting indicates that the Pootle server only works indirectly on the SVN server.

The red lightning indicates that data is being copied:

  • to/from Pootle server, which requires manual intervention during the build process
  • to tester which is quite normal, since a tester normally get an install-set.


Developers construct the actual program, using dedicated development tools.

Developers will as part of the development process embed messages (errors, warnings …) in the source code and/or build UI. The embedded texts are defined to be in English but the source code are in different programming languages, making extraction a challenge.

Developers are fluent in their language (C++, java, python etc.) but for sure not in all the native languages supported by AOO therefore localization is needed.

Developers uses solely SVN as their repository.


Translators add texts in the local native language, relating (translating) to the original message. In a release there is a 1-n relation between the original message and the supported languages, where n is the number of supported languages.

Translators does in principle not need to have programming knowledge because in essence they are presented with a list of texts extracted from the source and delivers the translated text back.

Translators work solely with the Pootle server which today has no direct connection to SVN but work in parallel with SVN and are updated manually with regular intervals.


Integrators initiate and control the build process.

Integrators does in principle not need to have programming or translation knowledge, because they are basically doing administrative tasks.


Testers check the total system and do a quality assurance of the behavior.

Testers need a deep knowledge of the behavior of the system, but deep technical knowledge is not needed.

Today testing seems to be very limited and not formalized in respect of the l10n process.

System: SVN

The sub version server is the actual repository and ideally all systems should work directly on this server.

All source files, documents etc. are stored in SVN.

System: Pootle server

The Pootle server provides an environment for translators to work in.

Nowadays the Pootle server contains all the translations and are updated from SVN and are as a consequence not synchronized and without version control (during the translation process).

Furthermore, many translators work offline without any control.

L10n workflow high altitude view

The workflow seen from the outside is quite simple, but still some of the shortcomings should be very obvious.

The workflow is designed as a waterfall, but one of the good Norwegian ones where water is pumped back up at night time. Ideally for each release each section is done only once (waterfall), but in real life two things happen (Norwegian night pumping):

  • Some sections happens in parallel (e.g. Translators start working with early code)
  • Some sections are repeated due to problems found in later sections

This is quite normal and normally not a real problem provided the process is automated and has a number of quality gates.

However the current process there is only a single automated quality gate which are pure technical (solving: “Can the product be built without errors?”) the rest is left to us humans.

The workflow only concentrates on the l10n process which is only a subset of the total life-cycle process.

Localization AOO 2.jpg

The model shows at least one problem, the parallelism of “Translation online” and “Translation offline”. To put it a bit on edge, this works because there are no alternatives and because there are few volunteers.

Content creation

Developers construct/develop new functionality or correct bugs/issues using different tools and programming languages. During the programming they may insert texts in the source files, this is done very differently depending on programming language and type of application (UI or error/information messages).

All text are written in English according to the programming guidelines, however there are no review process to secure the quality of the text or consistency with the rest of the product.

Note: A developer can insert the text directly in the source file or in a resource file, for the program both ways work, however only a limited number of file extension types are today scanned for texts, so in worst case some texts are never translated.

Upload Pootle server

The source files are stored in SVN. In general, the content of SVN is floating since it contains the absolute last updates, with the consequence that a total build very often will fail. To circumvent this problem a snapshot is made from time to time, guaranteeing a successful build but the package might not function correctly.

The snapshots can be used for a manually started extraction to the Pootle server.

The extraction program loop over all files in SVN

  • building one big sdf file.
  • the sdf file are then split into multiple template files.
  • the template files are merged with the existing po files in the Pootle server.
  • Pootle server database contain one set of po files for each language.

The purpose is to decouple the development process from the translation process. The purpose is achieved, but the route is highly manual and error prone.

If life was ideal, translation would only take place when development is completed, but typically translation takes place at several stages of the development process for several reasons:

  • A release consist of changes to multiple function groups (e.g. Draw, Writer and Calc), and these developments are finished at different point in times. Whenever a development of a group is finished, this group can be translated and thus the decoupling will be repeated.
  • Translation often takes place while testing is ongoing, any bug fixing must lead to a new decoupling, and since there are no version control of the translated parts it can only be controlled manually if there are changes.
  • There are currently no short-cuts to fast translate a bug fix that involves a known text change
Documentation note.png This part of the process is highly manual and very error prone, since it involves coordinating the effort of a high number of people.


Translation takes place on an offline copy consisting of multiple po files. These po files are generated each time, so any additional information the translators would like to keep (e.g. comments) are lost.

At the moment there are 276 different files to translate for each language. In order to split the work UI and Help are separated, there are

  • 20 help files (but they are big!)
  • 256 UI/message files (typically an average of 20lines)

Having that many files to translate makes it more likely to get content inconsistency (same term is translated differently).

Since the files are solely generated from the sources, there are no glossary file available, making it very difficult for new volunteers to help. Furthermore there are no control of how accelerators are used.

The online and offline translation process are handled quite differently.

Documentation note.png Today there are no version control and as such no computer controlled review and as a consequence the content quality varies.

Translation online (“committer”)

The po files are stored in Pootle server database and thereby available to translators with through the HTML interface.

Due to the lack of version control, team work must be controlled carefully.

Once a translation is complete, the translator(s) must manually inform the integrator that the set is ready for merge.

Translation offline (non “committer”)

The integrator will manually extract the po files from the Pootle server and send the files to the translators without “committer” status. The copy is not under version control or otherwise controlled.

Once the translation is complete the translator must send the files back to the integrator.

There are no computer control with which translations are outstanding, which are in manual review and which are completed, this is currently controlled by the integrator.

Documentation note.png Neither Bugzilla nor the mailing list allows these big attachments, so it must be sent to a private mail address or posted on a private web page.

Merge SVN

The integrator must manually decide that all offline translations are back, and all online translators have finished (translation review is left to the single translator team).

At a point in time decided by the integrator to start the merge, which consist of several manual steps:

  • synchronize po files with content of the Pootle server database
  • add the offline translated files
  • convert po files to sdf file (one per language)
  • store sdf file in SVN.

This part of the process does not allow for glossary files, because the converters would have no source parts to relate the glossary to.

Update Pootle server

Now it is time to synchronize the Pootle server, to make sure then content is identical with SVN. Based on the new sdf file (one per language) the following actions are taken:

Language build

Finally a test release can be built, and the testers can control the final result. It should be noted that there is currently no formal testing of the native language versions.

Simplified data flow

The current data flow is pretty complex, and it seems more like a “invented as needed” structure.

The first part shows the text flow from developer to translator:

Localization AOO 3.jpg

The second part shows the text flow from translator to tester:

As seen from the diagrams there are many manual steps, and many different temporary files only needed to come from a to b.

Localization AOO 4.jpg

L10n workflow technical view

This chapter is identical to L10n workflow high altitude view but seen from a technical view showing actual commands, names of files and directories as well details of the tool behavior.

Content Creation

Developers write text that needs to be localized. In principle the texts can be kept in files with any extension since most compilers are quite large in that respect. However the programming guidelines should secure that only defined extensions are used.

It is worth to note that the most common files (.cxx, .hxx, .cpp, .hpp, .py) are NOT scanned. Note: If a developer for some good reason decides to use a file with a non-standard suffix, it will NOT be searched for messages.

Upload Pootle server

The upload process is the very complicated and totally manual.

The outcome of the process in general it makes a snapshot copy of the texts in SVN and makes it available on the Pootle server and as zip files to contributor translators.

After the texts is extracted and until they are merged back they are NOT in any source control, nor is parallel development controlled.

Extraction from sources (generate new sdf file)

Before starting this process, all sources needs to be checked out (read-only). In order to ensure that the source is complete it is good practice to do a “build –all” first.

The process is started with:

cd main

localize -e -l en-US -f en-US.sdf

This is a perl script that will call


which is the actual executable. Sources for this executable is found in l10tools/source. localize_sl loop across the entire tree looking for files with a known extension. As seen in the table below the number of relevant files are small compared to the total number of files.
Extensions scanned for text
814.hrctransex3header for resource files
98.propertiesjpropexjava property files
1040.srctransex3source for resource files
15.treexhtexhelp files
53.xcdcfgexxml files only in postprocess
314.xcscfgexxml file for java
1365.xcucfexxml files for UI
4543.xhphelpexAOO help files
1.xrmxrmexxml readme file
8243Files to be scanned, total number of files is 438189

The tools are all separate executables meaning that for each file to be scanned a separate process with the corresponding tool is started, especially in MS-Windows this leads to prolonged duration.

The results of the single scans is contained in a single sdf file, which are then passed to the next phase.

The resulting sdf file is generated in directory containing main (normally trunk).

The resulting foo.sdf.main has at the moment:

  • 13.355.088 bytes
  • 72.860 lines
  • 45.582 lines of the 72.860 originate from the helpcontent2 module
  • 27.278 lines of the 72.860 originate from UI and simple messages

At the moment localize runs with errors on Windows: jpropex, a shell script that calls a java program does not run. Linux is OK.

Documentation note.png On Linux or macOS you have to use a full qualified path to the output file. Otherwise you

won't get an output file and also no error. The tooling seems to be very error-prone.

Merge with Pootle server database

The sdf file created by localize is transformed/converted into template pot files using

This is a perl script that will call

oo2po -P en-US.sdf templates

This set of pot files in the directory templates should now be updated on the Pootle server. Copy the complete templates directory in the po directory of the Pootle server in the related project directory. Assuming our project id is aoo34 and the Pootle server is under /var/www/Pootle: All help files are located in a single module so it easy to distinguish between UI and help. First move the help files (in order not to copy them into the UI directory):

cp -r templates/helpcontent2 \\


rm -rf helpcontent2

Then copy the UI files:

cp -r templates /var/www/Pootle/po/aoo34/templates

Update all existing languages to be aligned with the new templates.

cd /var/www/Pootle

./manage.py update_from_templates –project=aoo34

./manage.py update_from_templates –project=aoo34help


./manage.py update_from_templates --project=aoo34 –language=de

./manage.py update_from_templates --project=aoo34help –language=de

to update a specific language. Probably it is also possible to specify both projects with --project=aoo34, aoo34help and a list of languages with --language=de,fr,es,… (not tested it yet)


Translation takes place, either directly via the Pootle server html front-end or via an offline editor.

Translation online (“committer”)

Translators with status as “committer” can work directly on the pootle server.

However they have no glossary available, so it is highly possible that the same term is translated differently in different modules and it happens for sure over time as different people work on the translation.

The changes are done directly in the po files, there are NO version control, and NO review control. The separation of help content from UI content has many advantages but one huge disadvantage, there are no control that e.g. menu names are identical in help as in the UI.

Translation offline (non “committer”)

Many translators do not have “committer” status and can therefore not use the online Pootle server.

The normal procedure is that a “committer” generates a zip file with all the files, mails the location to the translator.

The translator uses an offline tool like poedit.

However they have no glossary available, so it is highly possible that the same term is translated differently in different modules and it happens for sure over time as different people work on the translation.

Once the translation is complete the translator send the files back to the “committer” that updates the po files behind the back of the Pootle server.

There are no special quality checks in place to secure that the content of the translation are consistent with earlier translations.

If you update po files for an existing language (translated external) you should update the stores with (after having copied to po files)

./manage.py update_translation_projects -–project=aoo34,aoo34help

./manage.py update_stores --project=aoo34,aoo34help –language=de

Merge SVN

Once the integrator decides that all parts are translated and quality is controlled, it is time to get the texts back into SVN.

First step is to resync the database into the po files because otherwise the made changes are only in the database. For example sync the UI strings for de back into the po files.

./manage.py sync_stores --project=aoo34 –language=<lang>

./manage.py sync_stores --project=aoo34help –language=<lang>

The next step is create a new sdf based on this updated po files.

po2oo -l de -t en-US.sdf --keeptimestamp --skipsource \

<lang> new_<lang>.sdf

cp new_<lang>.sdf extras/l18n/source/<lang>/localize.sdf

This command used the template en-US.sdf and created a new sdf file containing the new de translations. If you skip the parameter skipsource the en-US source translations are also included in the sdf file. Can be useful for some verification. There is a utility GSIcheck to check the files syntactically, this is however currently not in use.
Documentation note.png This step has to be repeated for each language.

Update Pootle server

In order to update the Pootle server with the newest templates, we repeat earlier steps:

oo2po -P en-US.sdf templates

Let assume we are currently in some temp directory and have existing po files in aoo34/es/... and have new templates in aoo34/templates/... then we can create a new set of po files with

pot2po -t aoo34/es aoo34/templates es_new

This command will merge the existing translations found in aoo34/es and merge them with the new templates and stores the new po files in *es_new*. This new po files can be copied in the Pootle project directory <pootle_install_dir>/po/aoo34/es. The database have to be synchronized with the new po files.

./manage.py update_translation_projects -–project=aoo34,aoo34help

./manage.py update_stores --project=aoo34,aoo34help –language=de

Language build

Use the normal command:

build –with-lang="..."

When the office is built with configure switch --with-lang="..." then extras/l10n is built and the localize.sdf files are rearranged. In l10n they are grouped according to language. Now they are grouped according to module (and directory.) The sdf files in extras/l10/<platform>/misc/sdf are zipped into one archive per module and delivered into main/solver/340/<platform>/sdf/<module>.zip and then forgotten (at least for the processing of src files.) Resource files (src files) are processed when the other modules are built. The original src files contain strings only for en_US in lines that look like transex3 adds the missing languages by adding lines like

Text [en_US] = "...";

transex3 adds the missing languages by adding lines like

Text [de] = "...";

By default all (available) languages are added not just the ones given to configure's --with-lang switch. The augmented src files are placed in <module>/<platform>/misc/... These are then aggregated into some srs files in <module>/<platform>/srs/. In a (or several) following step(s) the srs files are aggregated into res files, one for each language. The resulting res files are delivered to main/solver and become part of the installation sets. Multilanguage versions contain res files for more than one language. At runtime the ResMgr class from the tools module is responsible to use the resource files of the currently selected language whenever a string is requested (as is the case for e.g. all button texts and in general for all text visible in the GUI.)

File Formats

Quite a number of different file formats are involved in the localization process. The following list is not complete and may be inaccurate:

Used file formats
.hrcheader for resource files
.propertiesjava property files
.pocontains the translated strings from a .pot file. Used on the Pootle server.
.potcreated by gettext from source files. Contains strings that need translation. Not used by OpenOffice except as part of the Pootle server update.
.rescreated by transex3 from .srs files
.sdfused to store localized/localizable strings and their origins. Comparable to .po files
.srcsource for resource files Most strings used in the GUI are defined in .src files
.srsMade by rsc (which calls rscpp and rsc2) from multiple src files with *all* language strings included
.treehelp files
.xcdxml files only in postprocess
.xcsxml file for java
.xcuxml files for UI
.xhpAOO help files
.xliffa format with the same usage of .po, but it has more functionalities and is standardized
.xrmxml readme file


A large number of tools, implemented in a variety of languages (C++, Java, Perl, Python, sh) are involved in the localization process. They mostly extract strings from source files and merge the translated strings back in, or transform between different data formats.

The following list is not (yet) complete and may (still) be inaccurate:

Used tools
buildStandard build tool
cfgexCalled from localize_sl to translate .xcd .xcs .xcu files
gsicheckTool to do a syntax check on sdf files
helpexCalled from localize_sl to translate .xhp files
localizePerl script to control localize_sl
localize_slProgram that scan all sources for text strings
manage.pyA Python script to manage the Pootle server database
oo2poStandard program used to convert sdf files to po files
po2ooStandard program used to convert po files to sdf files
rscResource compiler
rscppResource compiler
Rsc2Resource converter
jpropexCalled from localize_sl to translate .properties files
ulfex Called from localize_sl to extract strings from .ulf files. NOT USED
xhtexCalled from localize_sl to translate .htex files
xmlexCalled from localize to extract strings from .xrb .xxl .xgf files. NOT USED
xrmexCalled from localize_sl to translate .xrm files

Open issues

The current localization workflow as outlined above has several drawbacks and plenty of room for improvement.

The drawbacks as well as other ideas to make the l10n process robust and stable have been collected below. These issues should be discussed either through the wiki or through the mailing list.

When there is a proposed solution to all issues, that the community in general agree to, this document will be converted into the proposed structure with a list of to-dos. The list of issues is not prioritized.

Workflow is not a designed approach

The current workflow is probably created as needed and as a consequence it has big portions of “left-over” from

  • the original OpenOffice (not localized)
  • the SUN era
  • the ongoing integration of OpenOffice in the Apache environment
  • the l10n process is merely a “must” and not as interesting to work on as other parts
  • The localization workflow is convoluted and hard to understand
  • Much tooling is involved outside the build process.
  • Some of this tooling seems to be lost after a disk crash of the old OpenOffice Pootle server

This results in a manual process that is undocumented and known only to a select few.


Once we agree on all issues a design paper on a proposed structure will be made available and be the basis for discussion.

Tools are writing in multiple languages

The tools involved are written in a variety of languages: C++, Java, Perl, and Python. This is not bad in itself. For example it makes sense to parse Java property files with Java code. But there is also C++ code for iterating over the tree of source files that uses hard coded lists of other executables and scripts for processing individual files. That leads to many processes to be created and destroyed, something that is notoriously slow on Windows.

Some of the tools are not used anymore. For example there are no .xtx, .xrb, .xxl, .xgf, or .xcd files.

Therefore the xbtxex and xmlex tools can be dropped. (May have already happened for xmlex)

Others are used but do not run (like the jpropex tool). And then there is our own preprocessor for handling resource files, which might be replaceable by the standard C/C++ preprocessor (which parses the included hrc files anyway since they are included in C++ code.)

On Linux or MacOS you have to use a full qualified path to the output file. Otherwise you won't get an output file and also no error. The tooling seems to be very error-prone. A lot of space for improvements.

At the moment localize runs with errors on Windows: jpropex, a shell script that calls a java program does not run. Linux is OK.

Streamline the number and implementation of the tools used for extraction and merging of localizable strings. Use the right language for each task.


Rewrite localize_sl, include the conversion programs (more efficiently).

Use gcc preprocessor instead of our own.

Use of sdf file

AOO uses its own non-standard file format (SDF) for handling localized strings. In order to use a pootle server for the actual translation, all .sdf files have to be transformed into .po files and, after translation, back into .sdf files. It should be also taken into consideration a future migration to xliff format for translation handout.


The .sdf files are merely intermediary files between the source files and the po files, and should be eliminated.

The choice of .po or .xliff is not so easy:

1) source <-> .po and .pot files

The advantage of this approach is that all translators knows .po
The very big disadvantage is that the format has no standard way of storing extra information. We need to store the relative path of the originating source file (as in .sdf) in order to be able to split the information.

2) Source ↔ .xliff

The advantage of this approach is that we can store extra information as needed, furthermore there are xliff editors out there including Pootle server. It would also eliminate the need for template files.
The disadvantage is that it is a new format, and offline translators would need to change editor.

Personally I would prefer .xliff since it makes programming a lot easier, but I think we need to listen carefully to the translators.

Separate projects for UI and help

We should create 2 separate projects: one for UI and one for Help. And we should keep it separated between versions because there will be probably some overlap with potential conflicts. Maybe an approach of keeping two versions in pootle to give translators the chance to work on translation after a release. And to allow future development toward the next release in parallel.

For example something like:

Apache OpenOffice 3.4 UI (aoo34)
Apache OpenOffice 3.4 Help (aoo34help)
Apache OpenOffice 4.0 UI (aoo40)
Apache OpenOffice 4.0 UI (aoo40help)

note: there are already 2 projects (a0034 and a0034help)

At the moment there are 276 different files to translate. Having that many files to translate makes it more likely that the same term is translated differently and currently there are no glossary list available.


The process makes 2 files (.xliff or .po) for each language:

  • localize_ui.<xx>
  • localize_help.<xx>
  • glossary.<xx> this file is not generated but maintained by the translators

These 3 files are delivered to the pootle server, translated and sent back for storage in SVN.

These files are handled as other files in respect to versions and releases.

Build process is highly manual and error prone

Total workflow should be automated.

A developer can insert the text directly in the source file or in a resource file, for the program both ways work, however only a limited number of file extension types are today scanned for texts, so in worst case, some texts are never translated.

Integrate the string extraction into the build process. Most of the files that can contain localizable strings are already part of the build system, mostly for the merge process. For example there are make-rules for transforming and merging rsc files into .srs and then into .res files. Add rules for the string extraction. This would allow developers to count new strings and the buildbot could extract the new strings and upload them to the Pootle server.


Add a new target in the makefiles (l10n_gen). Developers can then assign which files belong to this target.

Localize_sl should be rewritten, so it can run in multiple makefiles (no directory scanning).

Localize_sl will generate a snippet file that will be stored in a staging area (l10n/stating) and as last step in the “build –all” process, l10n will be “built”, that is the snippets will be used to update the single language files. With this process, the language files will always be “ready” for use in the build process.

However the Pootle server still need to be manually updated.

Automatic update of pootle server

Translators need versioning possibilities

Offline translation needs to be controlled (delivery etc).

At the moment there are no computerized control over when a translation is ready for merge, nor can a translation be given a status like e.g. “ready for review”. pootle server can use SVN directly, and thereby offer version control, however at the moment this is not used.


Make a new subproject in main called l10n, this project contains the language files (basically extras today), but also .mk file for generation.

The pootle server works direct on SVN. With this philosophy translators are seen as just another breed of developer (bot work with languages) and we have all the advantages of a version system when working on larger translations.

Content control

PO->SDF There are currently no control of the content quality (it is possible to make a translation, where all translated text are “not-translated” and it will pass.

PO->SDF There are no check, that changed text are changed in the translation.


Write a new tool that controls the tranlated part (based on the idea from poConsistency) and

integrate in the “build –all” process.
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