Beautiful i18n Graphics

A while back I submitted a bug to Tango, because the word processor icons for bold, italic and underline were a bold, italic and underline ‘A’ respectively:

I wrote in the bug that, like almost everyother word processing application I had ever used, the icons should be a bold ‘B’, an italic ‘I’ and an underlined ‘U’. The response to my bug was that to be fair to every language that the application supports, and to avoid making a new icon set for every language, they decided to use ‘A’ for all three icons. In reality however, I would imaging that a Japanese or Russian user might be confused by the latin character in the icon. So in every case, this is suboptimal.

One of our primary goals for Jokosher v0.2 is internationalization support. Like everyone else, we now use gettext. Another one of our goals is LADSPA effects support. In fact, Jono was so excited about implementing audio effects, he made this beatiful banner which sits at the top of the instrument effects dialog:

It goes without saying that images like this one make Jokosher a much prettier application, and benefits the overall user experience. We could also use different colours for the images at the top of different dialogs so people could easily remember which part of the application they are in. This would be more useable than the current state of all the buttons and dialogs looking identical. In fact this is one of the demos that was given when Cairo came out; many buttons on the screen each with their own random variation generated at runtime. Now computers are fast enought that we can use SVG and Cairo to do fancy vector graphics on the fly. Jokosher uses both, and we really like the results.

As soon I saw the intrument effects image Jono did, I told him two things: “That looks awesome!” and “It’s not going to work, and you’ll have to get rid of it.” The second of course refers to the fact that i18n is now a priority for Jokosher, and that image has English text in it. Now we have a problem.

Luckily this problem can be easily solved by using gettext and rendering the image at runtime. In other words, librsvg + gettext = awesomeness. One very hackish way I thought of to do this was loading the SVG as text, doing a quick find of all fields, replacing them using gettext, and then feeding the altered XML into librsvg. I’m not sure if this would work. Nor am I sure if the SVG specification has a translatable=”yes” tag like in glade XML. If not, there could at least be a switch somewhere which would make librsvg treat every string as translatable and call gettext, in exactly the same way glade does!

This would unleash awesome new possibilities to make GTK apps the most beautiful ones known to man. And it would help usability too, by allowing the bold, italic and underline Tango icons to use the user’s native alphabet and character set. If anyone has any other ideas for how to accomplish this, please let me know. I really don’t want to have to take the instrument effects image out of Jokosher 0.2.

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