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The big news in the open source translation community these days is Sun Microsystems' release of the first installment of their Open Language Tools project. On June 21, Sun programmer Tim Foster's weblog announced the release of binaries and source code to the Open Language Tools XLIFF (XML Localization Interchange File Format) Translation Editor and XLIFF Filter. The tools are cost-free and open source and are released under the Common Development and Distribution License, they are written in Java and will run on Windows, Linux, Solaris, and Mac OS X.

In the project FAQ, Sun explains the rationale behind open-sourcing the tools, namely that since Sun is a translation tools user, not a translation tools vendor, they felt that they had more to gain by open-sourcing the tools than by selling and supporting them. Sun also hopes to address the issue that “XLIFF and TMX are two of the standards being used in the translation industry, yet there are very few free implementations of tools which employ these standards.” At present, the tools can be used with a variety of file formats for translating documentation files in HTML, Docbook SGML, JSP, XML, and plain text, and software files in .po, Msg, Java .properties, Java ResourceBundle, and Mozilla .DTD resource file formats.

Features of the XLIFF Translation Editor are similar to many of the CAT tools that translators are already used to using: fuzzy matching, project creation, automatic copying of repetitions, and segment color coding are all supported. If you have broadband Internet and would like to check out the tools before downloading them, there's a very thorough demo available on the project website. The editor's GUI uses a two-pane system with the source and target sentences aligned horizontally, which may or may not appeal to individual users. However, it seems that the engineers have gone to some trouble to include features that translators will appreciate, such as easily customizable shortcuts so that you can make maximum use of keyboard commands.

The XLIFF Filter's job is just as crucial but somewhat simpler, consisting of creating an XLIFF file from your source file. To accomplish this, the XLIFF Filter parses the source file, segments it, and produces an XLIFF output file, than can then be used throughout the translation and localization process. So for example if you're translating a web page, you would run the HTML file through the XLIFF filter, and then load the resulting file into the XLIFF editor to actually translate it. Early reports from the Linux for Translators Yahoo Group suggest that Sun's tool will not work with files created using the Heartsome XLIFF Translation Editor, although this may soon be changed. It's also unclear how or whether the editor can re-use TMs created with another CAT tool.

Open Source Update gives Sun a big pat on the back for this move; their decision to open-source the tools is a great example of how open source can be good for business and good for the user community. At the same time, it's also important the read the fine print when it comes to who owns the code to the language that the tools are written in- not coincidentally, Sun Java, which is not itself open source. Therefore, although the Open Language Tools themselves are open source, they depend on software (Sun Java) that is not open source. For more information about this, read Richard Stallman's article “Free But Shackled-The Java Trap” on the website of the Free Software Foundation. On the positive side, the online newspaper was headlined on June 27 by the article “Sun continues slow walk toward open source Java.”

For now, it's great to see another user-ready open source translation tool out there; if you're using any of the newly released tools, drop Open Source Update a line and we'll include it in our next issue! In addition, Open Source Update will be interviewing Tim Foster for our July issue, so feel free to send questions that you'd like to have answered.

This article may be freely reproduced or redistributed
for non-commercial use with attribution to the author
Copyright 2004 by Corinne McKay

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