Dev:Lang HowTo

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Version 2.2

File name: msn/lang/LANG-HOWTO This document and its contents are licenced under the GNU-FDL licence version 1.2 or up. [1]

If you modify this file, please update the version and add your name to the credits at the end.

This little document is a guide to translator and translation managers that works or wants to work in aMSN. It is indeed a little document, but has a lot of information. We suggest you to print it and leave it within the reach of your hands if you are serious in this translation business.

Another word of warning: if you are in doubt, please ask! We will be pleased to help you. The right place to ask questions is our discussion list: . You must subscribe to post there. Instructions on how to subscribe can be found here:

One of our goals is to be the most internationalized free software / open source project of the world. And to achieve that we need you!

Thanks for the interest on the aMSN project!



There are many ways you can help the aMSN project. One of them is by translating the software to other languages. This can be easily done. Another way is proofreading the current translations in search of typos and errors and missing (untranslated) messages. There is plenty of work for everyone who wants to be involved, and this seems to be your case as you are reading this file ;-)

The aMSN Messenger can be translated into any language you want. It is easy to do so because all of the translated messages for every new language are stored in a special file called langfile. The name of each and every langfile indicates clearly the language it contains. The format is langXX, where XX is the two-character ISO code of your language. For instance, for the Italian language, whose ISO code is IT, the langfile is called langit.

A few examples: English: langen Spanish: langes German: langde French: langfr

The ISO codes for the English, Spanish, German and French languages are, respectively, en, es, de and fr. Later in this document we will see how to determine the country code for new languages. For the languages already present in aMSN (some completely translated, some not) please refer to our translation effort page: [2]

You can help us enormously by checking periodically the webpage above and, if your language has any missing key (a key is one of the many messages shown on the various aMSN windows, menus and dialog boxes), translate it and send us the file. Even if your language has zero missing keys, it is important to scan the file for possible errors or bad writing styles introduced by other translators.

This document (msn/lang/LANG-HOWTO) deals ONLY with the langXX files (that is, the language files that translate aMSN's messages, menus and dialog boxes). Please read the present document completely, make sure you understand everything and ask what to do (at when in doubt.

There are other files that need translation and proofreading, like the HELP, FAQ and README files. There is another document called DOCS-HOWTO, located at msn/docs/DOCS-HOWTO.


Tip: this LANG-HOWTO file surely contains many errors. If you are a native English speaker, please help us by proofreading it.

The most important thing

You MUST subscribe to the mailing list. There you can discuss various issues with the members of the translation team, including:

  • The best way to translate a word or phrase;
  • What character code you should use or not use;
  • Best translation practices;
  • Issues and questions about this HOWTO;
  • Coordination of local efforts;
  • Establishment of local language translation managers.

One important thing you MUST ask at the amsn-lang list is if there is somebody already doing what you intend to.

For instance, if you want to translate the langfile file into Greek (langel) you should ask first. This way, if there is another person already translating the same langel you won't waste your time.

You can subscribe to the list by visiting this page:

Remember, joining or not is not an option. You MUST subscribe.

For Translators

When you add new keys, you should send the entire updated langXX file to the translator managers, who can be reached at

Diff files are also accepted, and can be used in certain cases where you update more than one file with a single diff or you merge different files into one, but the best and easiest way (for both translators and managers) is to send the whole translated file. If in doubt, send the entire file.

Keys sent in the body of the email will be ignored, due to character coding and line break issues.

You can help us by translating some sentences to your language, or modifying wrongly translated sentences (proofreading).


  • Download the latest langfile you want to work on from the website or via CVS. You will find the link at the translation page here. NEVER use files from a stable AMSN package, as they are probably out of date, and you'll find yourself translating many keys that are already translated in the latest language file version. When in doubt, ask! (
  • Add the missing keywords from the list at the bottom of the page to the language file. Alternatively, you can also download "langen" file (the master file), and use the script "" in the lang/ folder to check what are the missing keys. When in doubt, ask! (
  • Translate the english sentences. BE CAREFUL with $1, $2... parameters that appear in some sentences. You can change their position, but they must appear on the sentence, they'll be substituted during execution with some values. Every key must be in a single line. There should be no line breaks. The key name (first word on the line), and the translation must be separated by a single blank. Don't use Tabs. When in doubt, ask! (
  • Check the translated file with one of the scripts provided in the lang/ folder. For example:
 $ ./ langXX

It will tell you if there are any errors or missing keys to translate. You'll need the "langen" file in the same folder in order to check the missing keys. It can be downloaded from the translations web page too. -It's not necessary that the keys in the file are sorted, but it is better to have them sorted, in order to find keys more easily. You can sort them automatically using the "sortlang" script in the lang/ folder. Please MAKE SURE there are no errors in the file before sorting, or the file can be messed up. When in doubt, ask! (

  • When all errors are fixed, send the updated file to

We will ONLY accept langfiles. We will NOT accept, in ANY way, individual keys received in the body of the email. You MUST send the COMPLETE langfile (for instance, langit if you are Italian) ATTACHED to the email message. Only in special cases we will accept diff files or incomplete translation files with a few keys. -As stated above, keys sent in the body of the email will be IGNORED and DISCARDED. -Langfiles sent to other email addresses than will also be IGNORED and DISCARDED. When in doubt, ask!

If not possible, or you're just translation a few keys, you can just send (although it is not the ideal) a text file attached to the mail, in the form:

 keyname1 translation1
 keyname2 translation2

that is, the keyname, followed by ONE BLANK SPACE (no tabs or similar), and followed by the translated string, no need to include the original English string, or similar. One key per line, no extra blank lines in the middle. Including the keys directly in the email text is a bad idea, as mail clients usually split long lines and change the character encodings, which leads to mistakes.


I hope you understand, there's usually one person in charge of updating the translations, and there are more than 50 languages, so there are many translations and submission. Don't make it more difficult :)

When in doubt, ask! (



Choose a short identifier for your language (for example English - en). It is better that you use the correct ISO code for your language. ISO codes for languages can be found at

Always use the 2-letter code for your language if it exists (for instance, fr for French, pt for Portuguese). If your language has only a 3-letter code (for instance, ale for Aleut, pap for Papiamento) you must use it, though. When in doubt, ask! (

For languages spoken on colonial lands, you should use the language ISO code followed by an underline and the country ISO code in CAPS (fr_CA for Canadian French, pt_BR for Brazilian Portuguese).

Language ISO codes:

Country ISO codes:

Some codes have been mistakenly taken (for example, langbr once was taken for the Brazilian Portuguese, but the correct code would be pt_BR, br alone refers to the Breton language). If you find that the ISO code for your language has been taken by mistake for another language, scream your lungs out at the amsn-lang list and we will fix things up ;-) When in doubt, ask! (


Download the English language (langen) file from [3]

Rename the file to langXX, where XX the ISO language code you've chosen. Remember that, for some languages, the ISO code has three (3) letters.


Translate the whole file, except for the first word of each line (that is the key). Do not use <TAB> characters in the translated files, only spaces are allowed. Tabs break aMSN.

TEST THE FILE. Use the new file in your local aMSN before sending. Go through every menu and every dialog box. Assure that all messages have the proper size. If you don't know how to do it, ask for help on the amsn-lang list. Also use the scripts provided in the lang/ folder to check for errors in the translation. There is a description of these scripts in section 3 of this document. When in doubt, ask! (


Only after testing for one or two days, send the new file to

Send to this email only! Submissions to other emails will be ignored and discarded.

When in doubt, ask! (

For Translation Managers

When a new translation arrives to you, you should only accept it if is a diff file or a complete langXX file. Do not accept other kinds of submissions, 'cause our users have the sad habit of sending sparse translated keys by mail, and it's a big job :)


YOU, AS A TRANSLATION MANAGER, MUST DO THIS TO ENSURE THE FILE IS OK! Do this before committing the file and only commit it if it's ok!

If the file has any problems, the best thing to do is to return it to the translator and ask him to correct it. If you really need to edit a file (for whatever reason) be sure you use a multilanguage editor and also use de correct codepage for each language --- or you can corrupt it. Encodings are in langlist file (msn/langlist). This file is XML-formatted so it must be easy to understand.

If you reject a translation by any reason, do it politely. Explain the reasons of why you're rejecting it and always: 'Thanks anyway' ;)

What should I do if...

-...I receive two lang files of the same language? Reject one, the oldest, or the less complete.

When you get big contributions (not just 1 or 2 keys), or when you notice a person is very active (sending frequent translation updates for a language), you should add him to the CREDITS file. You should tell him/her about this, and ask him/her if he or she wants to be removed (nobody wanted to be removed until now, but it's polite to ask :))

When adding a new language, make sure to create an entry in the langlist file found in the top amsn directory. See the existing entries for the format.

For both - Useful tools

In the lang/ folder you have some useful scripts. Remember to replace XX in langXX for the two-letter code of your language. Example: Valenciano = langva. will list the missing keys in the langXX file, that is, the keys that exist in langen (the master language), but not in langXX. It will also warn about errors and count the number of untranslated keys. It's a very useful script, please use it!

Usage in Linux:

 ./ langXX

Usage in Windows (must have the Python interpreter installed):

 python langXX


sortlang will sort the language file. BE CAREFUL. Don't apply sortlang if there are split translations, as sorting it will sort these split lines, and it will be quite difficult to join them again. So please fix any split lines before sorting. Sorting is not mandatory, but it's recommended to sort before committing to the CVS.

Usage in Linux:

 ./sortlang langXX

To use it in Windows you must have Cygwin installed. The syntax is identical.


convert.tcl converts the given source, in the source encoding, to the given destination file using the given encoding.

Usage in Linux:

 ./convert.tcl source_file 
 source_encoding dest_file dest_encoding

Usage in Windows:

 wish convert.tcl source_file source_encoding dest_file dest_encoding

If you are in Linux using bash, remember that the auto completion is your friend...


File created by Alberto Diaz

Version Created Author Obs

 1.0		06.Jan.2004	Alberto Diaz				Initial file
 2.0		03.May.2004	Henrique Cesar Ulbrich (Hatredman)	Total rewrite
 2.1		Unknown		Alvaro Iradier				Inclusion of new tools (section 3)
 2.2		29.Aug.2004	Henrique Cesar Ulbrich (Hatredman)	Instructions for FAQ, README and HELP files
 2.3		03.May.2005	Denis Landry				Fixed a bunch of typos - grammar mistakes

Please be don't mess with the versioning system. It's quite simple to determine what version your mods should take. If you just add a few items or correct some, ad one to the MINOR version number (example, 1.1 to 1.2). If you totally rewrite the file (or rewrite large portions of it) add one to the MAJOR number and make the minor zero (example: 2.6 to 3.0).

These credits are not a reward or recognition for you, but a way to hunt for a guilty person if something goes wrong he he he... We have the CVS versioning anyway.

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