Translating software with Virtaal

Today I tried Virtaal, the off-line translation tool from Zuza Software Foundation, the same one behind Pootle and translate-toolkit. Virtaal’s user interface is best optimized for keyboard usage than any translation tool I ever used, except maybe for advanced text editors. Thanks to translate-toolkit, Virtaal can edit many translation file formats, not only Gettext message catalogs. The application depends on GTK+ but not on GNOME, and it can be used in UNIX-like operational systems, Windows and Mac OS X.

Virtaal’s user interface is very unobtrusive, but some of its command are not very intuitive. That’s why I suggest reading this introduction before you actually translate something.

The application has some very useful features already. The automatic completion, in example, should avoid typos and increase productivity, and I hope other tools (poEdit, Gtranslator etc.) implement it as well. Spell checking and syntax highlight are there too, even if the syntax support is not as complete as some other implementations. The search is one of my favorite Virtaal features already: it uses a search bar instead of a search dialog, and you can search for a regular expression.

Virtaal lacks many small and large features, so for now it’s just a promising application. I’ll leave it installed, but I don’t have any plans to stop using Gedit + gedit-pomode for free software translation.

Update: I just packaged Virtaal for Arch Linux and translated it to Brazilian Portuguese.

3 respostas em “Translating software with Virtaal

  1. Thank you for the nice review, Leonardo! (and for the translation, packaging, bug reports, etc.) I would like to hear how we can make all commands as intuitive as possible, although I think the current interface is already quite nice to use and is easy to get used to. What would be the features that would make you switch from gedit-pomode?🙂

    Very soon we will work on extending the search feature with replace functionality, and look at how to incorporate translation memory in the most useful/productive way for translators.

  2. Hi, Friedel!

    Having different navigation modes boosts the keyboard productiveness but makes the shorcuts less intuitive. So, when I first searched something, and found it, I expected that pressing Control+Down would take me to the immediately next translation, not to the next match. And, as a GNOME user, I thought Control+F would take me to the search bar (instead of F3), and that I would navigate the search matches pressing Control+G (forward) and Control+Shift+G (backwards). Using Enter to go back from the search bar to the translations was not intuitive, but it doesn’t really hurt, because pressing Tab (which I guessed) works.

    “incomplete” mode is very useful. If you ever kill the modes and create a separate shortcut for it, please don’t create many different shortcuts like some applications; just one for untranslated+fuzzy forward, and another for backwards.

    Once I read the “getting started”, the navigation modes because very usable. Maybe it’s just a matter of somehow telling new users that there are navigation modes. A fat tooltip is clearly a good call, and maybe changing the “_Mode” label for “_Navigation mode: ” (another trade-off between designing for beginners or familiarized users). Maybe the help menu could have a separate, off-line, “Getting started” item.

    Somehow, I managed to autocomplete words with every reasonable key, except for Tab🙂 But I guess that’s just me, I believe Tab is a good key for… “tab completion”.

    On what would I need:

    Currently the autocorrection is not working well for me; when I type fast (even if correctly) it seems to be activated before I end typing the word. I really need this to be fixed (or optional) for Virtaal to become an everyday tool.
    Search and replace will be very useful for someone who reviews more than translates (e.g. me). Searchs with regular expression can be crafted to deal with underscores, ampersands and other access key signs, but maybe the usual (non-regex) search should ignore those characters; e.g. searching for “ajuda” should match “aj_uda” as well by default.
    If, by any chance, you can make the spell checker understand “aj_uda” as “ajuda”, that would be great.
    Consider printing non-printable characters, like Draw Spaces plugin for Gedit (and the future Gtranslator 2.0). That would help preventing translators from not forgeting trailing or initial whitespace.

    Of course there are many missing features, but those are the ones I miss more, after using Virtaal only for a few hours.

  3. I thought you might be interested to know that the current development version of Virtaal has Control+F, Control+G and Control+Shift+G working as you explained. Thank you for suggesting this. The search functionality has now also been augmented with replace, and I think you’ll like the interface. I hope we can have a beta release out in a week or so. Quite a few exciting features!

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