Sunday, January 28, 2007

Myth #5 - For open source aficionados

Oh, the myths keep rolling along. This one is more and more commonly heard (used?) as open source is more and more commonly incorporated into company offerings.
"My product uses open source and so internationalization requirements don't apply."

Tell that to your customers when your software doesn't work for them.

A product is only as good as its weakest component. If you use open source in your product and it isn't internationalized, then it may be that your entire product can't handle international data. For example, say you base your product on one of the Linux flavors that isn't internationalized, and say your primary market is, oh, China (I hope a certain VP is reading this). Does that make sense? Why would Chinese customers run on a platform that doesn't support Chinese? Would you run on a platform that doesn't support English? My German is pretty near fluent, but I still run on an English platform. Even if I switch the interface to German, which I sometimes do, I make sure that it can process English correctly.

When producing a software product, all customer requirements should be considered. And whether you write your own code or pull it from open source, those requirements still count. If your market is worldwide, or even within the EU, internationalization is not a "nice-to-have", it's a must. So when choosing external components, be they from a vendor or from open source, consider the work it will take to get the internationalization up to snuff. Then make your decision.


Bill M said...

My daughter is in a French immersion school in the US and needs to write papers in French, my spouse teaches primarily Spanish-speaking students, my father lives in southern Brazil. German figures in as my spouse re-learns her German for a trip to Switzerland with a Girl Scout troop. I use Windows and Linux platforms, and neither works seamlessly as I switch between languages. I'd love to have my Portuguese spelling corrected, with the appropriate accents in place. That would be nirvana. I really don't want to switch keyboards for each foreign-language email I write, either!

I18n G.A.L. said...

You can use soft keyboards. If you're on a Unix box, you might have the benefit of combined keys, where you hit a logical combination of keys to produce a character not on your keyboard (Solaris has these, and I found them much faster to use than the character table in Windows). As for Portuguese spell-check, try OpenOffice - I do believe they have Portuguese and there might be a spell-check available. If not, try StarOffice, it's pretty cheap would be even more likely to have Portuguese spell-check.
The only platform to platform compatibility would be Unicode encoding, specifically in the scheme called UTF-8. If you use the same product across platforms, that usually manages compatibility. You'll still have the typing differences to deal with, though. Just think what a bland world this would be if everything worked the same way ;-}