← Home

Real fun: Get on Rails with Globalize (take #2)


You'll need to have a working Rails app up and running. That is, if you want to start from scratch first make sure that your conf/database.yml knows about your database, valid credentials etc. and everything else is nice.

Install and setup Globalize

Then make your way to your Rails app directory and install the plugin:

script/plugin install http://svn.globalize-rails.org/svn/

Now just do:

rake globalize:setup

... and you're already done with the setup!

If you're curious, check your database! You'll find three new globalize_* tables with 239 countries, 186 languages and 3420 pre-translated strings... including several languages I'd bet you've never heard of like Avar, Manx or Wolof!

Whoops! These folks don't really expect my application to be translated to their native language over there in the Northeast-Caucasian Mountains, do they??

Configure Globalize

Now, that's it. You're already globalized.

There's nothing more to do than set the "base_language" for your Globalize instance but it's easy to miss this step I think. At least it happened to me. This should work:

Rails::Initializer.run do |config|
  # ...
include Globalize # put that thing here
Locale.set_base_language('en-US') # and here :)

If you're used to locales with underscores (like I was) and miss this you'll get an exception: 'en_US' won't work. (I'll yet have to lookup some RFCs or specs to find out what's the difference.)

As far as I understand the meaning of the base_language that you set here, this is what Globalize treats as the "primary" language - which means that content stored your model tables is stored in the primary language whereas translations are stored in the globalize_translations table.

Having written this I remembered having read about that in the mailinglist and found the following quote from Joshua Harvey:

"Base language entries are stored in the parent table itself, as opposed to the globalize_translations table. So if you have a table called 'products', and your base language is English, the English product name would be stored in products.name, whereas the German translation would be stored in globalize_translations.

It's important to never change the base language once you've starting populating the database."

I think this states it more clearly.

(I yet wonder what's the right choice or best practice for me here. From the standpoint of developing an ubiqous Domain Language an English base_language would be first choice of course. I therefor chose that option.

On the other hand ... from the standpoint of an agile process of getting real with an application that for the most forseeable time will deliver localized content in German (and probably only some content in other languages) this would be a waste of ressources, wouldn't it? I'll have to find out more on this.)

Check it out!

Already impatient to check out some working stuff? I were, too ...

There's a nice example in the Globalize wiki using Rails Unit tests and fixtures.

I probably should have tried that but I didn't. I've globalized an existing application that I had been working on before, so I decided to just open up a controller and write something to the screen.

The shortest statement I've found was:

def index
  render :text => Time.now.localize("%d %B %Y")

This prints:

07 Junio 2006

Wew, hey! This means Globalize already works.

Of course my next step was to try and change the locale to "de-DE". Which resulted in:

07 June 2006

Wtf!? Too bad. :( Would have been too nice if this worked out of the box, wouldn't it?

But this forced me to read a bit more than I had yet. It took me a while to read through the Globalize wiki, inspect some code, query the database tables ... to finally find out that there simply is no default translation provided for "June" in German (which of course isn't that unusual at all).

Instead, there's been a row in the translations table pointing to a "German" language row and containing a NULL value! How this?

That's a feature :) This might not be obvious in the first place but Globalize adds NULL values to the translations table when it sees a string that's not yet translated. While you're developing your application Globalize will collect the strings that need to be translated. You can then write a Rails controller afterwards and add the translations.

Ok, I changed that NULL value to the German translation "Juni" that I've missed before. That worked. I've got the expected result now:

07 Juni 2006

I wondered how the heck I am supposed to add this stuff to the database from Ruby? In the Globalize wiki I found something like this:

Locale.set_translation('Welcome', Language.pick('de-DE'),

That looks pretty nice. I added a similar line to my controller and inspected the new records that had been created in my globalize_translations table.

I opened up a template and (having the Language.locale set to 'de-DE' in the controller index method for now) added the line:

<%= 'Welcome'.t -%>

Expected result: "Willkommen". Actual result: the same. Great. :)

I changed the locale to 'en-US' and got the expected result "Welcome". I noticed that this string is recieved from the original string in the template because there's no translation for "Welcome" in the database of course.

Now, that's way cool. Think about that for a moment.

Globalize lets you append .t to any string which then will transparently lookup and find available translations for it. In case there's no translation available it will simply return the original string (which I believe is the default behaviour most t10n/i18n tools show).

Just add hot water ...

Now, that's about date formats and strings in my templates so far. What about my models?

Globalize comes with the capability to transparently translate any attribute of your ActiveRecords Models ... all you have to do is add a "translates" directive like this:

def article
  translates :title

As soon as there actually is a translation for the "title" attribute known to Globalize it will be present for the language you have set. You can make Globalize know about a translation by simply saving the model like so:

@article = Article.create!(:title => 'Welcome to Globalize!')

@article = Article.find(:first)
@article.title = 'Willkommen zu Globalize!'

(I think instead of Article.find(:first) or something like this you could also do @article.reload.)

Enthused by my first experiences I applied this stuff to my experimental voting application. As far as I can tell it's really done in an instant.

I collected the hardcoded strings from the templates and let Globalize add translations for it. I simply did this from an extra method in the controller for now using above mentioned Locale.set_translation method. With portability in mind this should better be done by migrations I think? I'll have to figure out though how exactly to do so. And for more food for thought:there's also a pretty interesting Howto about "Adding a Translation View" in the wiki.

Of course there's much, much more to Globalize. E.g. there's support for localized date and number formatting, "multiple plurals" (which some languages have) etc. and you can use the "slash trick" to insert data into your strings, like so:

"Hey, %s! You're globalized." / 'Sven'

... will result in "Hallo, Sven! Du bist Globalized." (at least it will if you have added this translation of course).

So ...

I'm really fascinated about how easy and quickly I've been able to get this stuff up and running. Of course - you're used to this kind of experience like this using Rails, it's just it's unique featurewise selling-point or something. But I've been honestly surprised.

That's definitely fun :)