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Localized menu
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18.6 Formatting localized strings
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One of the screens used in the Field Service application lists all the jobs assigned to this user. Figure 18.9 shows this in the en_US locale. Note that the number of jobs phrase at the top of the screen is defined in the default string table as
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A job list in English
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<string name="there_are_count_jobs">Number of jobs: %d</string>
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In the Spanish version of the string table, this is defined as
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<string name="there_are_count_jobs">Hay %d trabajo(s)</string>
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The %d placeholder is used to specify where the integer should be placed within the string. At runtime, this string is extracted and subsequently formatted with the help of the java.util.Formatter class, as shown here.
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Listing 18.7 Formatting localized strings
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if (this._joblist.getJobCount() == 0) { tv.setText(this.getString(R.string.there_are_no_jobs_available)); } else { Formatter f = new Formatter(); tv.setText(f.format(this.getString(R.string.there_are_count_jobs), this._joblist.getJobCount()).toString()); }
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In this dynamic formatting code, the first step is to determine whether there are any jobs to display to the user. If not, a static string is retrieved and assigned to the TextView. In the case where there are jobs available for display, an instance of the Formatter class is created. The format method of the Formatter object is invoked, passing in the localized string pulled from the string table associated with the identifier of R.string. there_are_count_jobs, along with the integer value representing the number of jobs. The benefit of using the Formatter class is that you have the option of presenting strings in different manners in different languages. Figure 18.10 shows the job listings screen in English. Figure 18.11 shows the same screen but in Spanish. Note the different placement of the numeric value. You ve now seen examples of both statically and dynamically localized strings. There s no end to the combinations you might employ in your applications. We conclude this chapter with a brief discussion of obstacles you should avoid when building a localized application.
Figure 18.10 Job listings screen in en_US locale
18.7 Obstacles to localization
Figure 18.11 Job listings screen in es_ES locale
Localizing an application shouldn t be an afterthought. Too much effort is required to properly rework your application when you consider all the supporting cast around your application. The Field Service application has a server-side component, and with it a whole set of other users and use cases to consider. In this final section, we examine a couple of these considerations. Anything that s shown to the user should ideally be put into a form that s readily consumed and is relevant to them. This means that certain elements of your coding approach might need to change and this is often not easy to accomplish. For example, one aspect of the Field Service application that should be treated differently is the use of the status code. The application uses the values OPEN and CLOSED transparently but without translation, as shown in figure 18.12. This is a case where the same piece of text (OPEN, CLOSED) is used for not only display but also control of the application. In hindsight, this approach is something to avoid. The status code should be internal to the application and hidden from the user in its raw form. Instead, a locale-specific version should be rendered based on the underlying value. The status code ripples throughout the application, both on the device and on the server side, so modifying it involves a more comprehensive and
costly effort than just translating some strings in the application. Additionally, we discussed earlier in the chapter the idea of filtering out results that are potentially not usable for a particular user. Refer again to figure 18.12. Note that this screen is shown in Spanish but contains a job with English comments. Some elements of a job may be unable to be translated for example, proper names of products or a physical address but the comments themselves should be carefully distributed to only users who can be productive with the information. The point in demonstrating some of the shortcomings of this (partially) localized application is to emphasize that localizing an application after it has been released is much more work than starting with localization in mind. Consequently, localizing an application Figure 18.12 Speedbumps in localization: OPEN status down the road adds more cost than if you d designed the application for localization from the start. In addition, the user experience may be compromised based on some of the steps required to make a localized application fit into an infrastructure that didn t contemplate the possibility beforehand.
18.8 Summary
In this chapter we explored the topic of localizing an Android application. We reviewed high-level concepts, including motivation, strategy, and technique. The code used a variant of chapter 12 s Field Service application as an example to illustrate both the techniques and challenges of localizing an application. We looked at the resource structure and the services performed for you automatically by the Android platform. Beyond the definition and organization of the resources, we examined the various means of working with localized strings. Although you may not have learned much Spanish in this chapter, we trust that you re now ready to add localization to your list of capabilities and in the process make your applications available to a much broader audience. In addition to the basic mechanics of localizing an application, a key idea to take from this chapter is that localization isn t a casual exercise to be undertaken at some point in the future, but rather it should be designed into the DNA of your application from the start. In the next and final chapter, you get to go under the hood of Android as we look at the Android Native Development Kit (NDK) and write C code for Android.
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