Organizing string resources

Good practice in use of localized strings.

What application strings to localize?

When modifying sources to add % prefixes to the strings that have to be localized, you need to consider which string is the subject of internationalization, and leave other strings without a % prefix.

For example, strings used to build an SQL statement at runtime obviously must not be localized:
LET sql = "SELECT * FROM customers ", where_part
Typical strings to be localized are application messages:
MESSAGE %"The customer name is mandatory!"
Furthermore, you may also need to localize application data. In this case, you can store localized string identifiers in the database, and use the LSTR() function at runtime to get the localized string from your string resource files:
SELECT order_warning INTO rec.order_warning
    FROM orders WHERE ...
LET msg = LSTR(rec.order_warning)

Messages with parameters

Applications often display messages with variable parts. The message text is usually built at runtime with comma concatenation expression, where the message is split into different string literals:
LET msg = "There are ", ord_count USING "<<<&", " orders not yet validated for ", rec.cust_name, "."
To simplify translation, consider reviewing the message construction by using the SFMT() operator, to set the variable parameters in your messages:
LET msg = SFMT(%"orders.message.valid_count", ord_count, rec.cust_name)
You can then easily define the corresponding localized strings with %n placeholders:
-- English string file:
orders.message.valid_count = "There are %1 orders not yet validated for %2."

-- French string file:
orders.message.valid_count = "%1 commandes ne sont pas encore validées pour %2."

Note that in SFMT() calls, the %n placeholders can be specified at different positions, depending on the language needs.

Development and runtime locale

The character set encoding (LANG/LC_ALL locale) used in sources and at runtime must match. For more details, see Application locale.

A good practice is to have sources in ASCII, and have string resources in the locale of your choice: The runtime locale can be a specific ISO8859-? encoding for each language, or UTF-8, to have a common encoding for all languages to be supported. However, you can also use UTF-8 in sources and at runtime, if you want to use original texts as string identifiers in your sources.

Note: The locale to be used at runtime will depend on the database locale used. You may need to support a set of string files using ISO8859-? and a set of files using UTF-8, if you need to deploy your application with ISO8859-? databases and UTF-8 databases.

String identifiers

A localized string must be identified with a unique name. By default, if you add a % prefix before existing strings and you extract the strings with fglcomp -m or fglform -m, you will get string identifiers with the original text:
"OK" = "OK"
"Cancel = "Cancel"
"Close" = "Close"
"There are %1 orders not yet validated for %2." = "There are %1 orders not yet validated for %2."

At this point, you can keep the original text for string identifiers, or re-define more abstract identifiers (without quotes, such as common.button.text.ok).

Using the original text as string identifier has the advantage of been fast. It also simplifies translation because the original text is directly visible for the translator. However, the character set encoding should be UTF-8.

Note: If you want to leave the original text for string identifiers, you must make sure that the locale used at compile time matches the runtime locale. If the languages to be supported do not fit in a single encoding like ISO8859-15, you will have to convert your sources to UTF-8 and use UTF-8 at runtime.

Using abstract identifiers allows to maintain the sources in pure ASCII. Additionally, you can give an indication of the usage context by using a clear identifier. it is recommended that you also group common messages in a single string resource file. Using abstract identifiers will simplify uniqueness checking.


common.button.text.accept = "OK"
common.button.text.cancel = "Cancel"
common.button.text.close = "Close"
common.topmenu.text.accept = "Validate"


orders.messages.valid_count = "There are %1 orders not yet validated for %2."

Create directories for each language

At runtime, the .42s string resource files to be loaded must be declared with the fglrun.localization.* FGLPROFILE entries.

In order to provide a set of string files for each language you want to support, organize the string files in directories dedicated to a given language:
/opt/app/resource/strings/en_US.iso8859-15  -- English strings in iso8859-15 code-set
/opt/app/resource/strings/fr_FR.iso8859-15  -- French strings in iso8859-15 code-set
/opt/app/resource/strings/jp_JP.utf8        -- Japanese strings in utf-8 code-set