I: View and Présentation
This article, the first in a series,
aims to examine some of the challenges facing OS X localizers.
Since I work with English and French, examples will
be in those two languages.
Let's travel back in time for a moment. As early as
Macintosh OS 1, the Finder's menu bar looked something
Even back in those days, Apple embraced internationalization
with a version en Français:
The section of interest here is the
View menu item, translated as Présentation.
We'll note that View is the only non-standard
(i.e., not File and Edit) item to have made its way
into OS 10.3:
As one might expect, the French equivalent of View
remains the same:
When localizing UI elements, it is critical to maintain
consistency with precedents. Human Interface engineers
invest a lot of time creating intuitive UIs. Once a
foreign end user has acquired a particular UI concept,
all it takes is an improper localization to negate that
Proper localization practices would therefore have us
translate any menu item called View (specifically
one which modifies the visual environment) as Présentation.
Indeed, almost all OS X applications from Apple and
many third party developers localize View as
Présentation. Here, as an example, is
There are some exceptions, however.
Let's go back in time again, back to 1990, when Adobe
presented Photoshop. About three years later, Adobe
released Acrobat, introducing the .pdf format. Version
4.0 of Photoshop introduced a View menu item,
which was translated as Affichage instead of
the expected Présentation.
The consequence being of course that a French localizer
would now have two precedents to work from when translating
an OS X menu item called View.
Microsoft's Internet Explorer uses Affichage:
Panic Software's excellent Transmit (perhaps the best
OS X FTP client in existence) uses Vue:
And a French end user now sees three different translations
for the same concept.
While Vue in Transmit could
be construed as hasty work. Affichage in Explorer,
coupled with the UI abomination Aller à
suggests whomever localized IE used Microsoft's equivalents,
not Apple's -- arguably a wise choice.
Apple itself has an interesting inconsistency:
of our tasks, as localizers, is to prioritize word
choices so that the end user finds linguistic equivalents
which not only are correct, but more importantly,
equivalents which represent common, accepted usage.
This is why localizers rely so much on precendents.
Since Preview is, in essence, a .pdf viewer (a format
you'll recall invented by Adobe,) is it possible that
Afficher was used in deference to French
users accustomed to Acrobat's Affichage?
When working on PDFpen,
a lean and mean .pdf reader-manipulator, I used
Affichage for that very reason. For any
other software, I would have used Présentation.
As a translator, it's tempting
to discuss the merits of Présentation
versus Affichage as a correct translation
for View, but ultimately, localizing
a UI is not unlike practicing law: our choices
are often dictated by precedents.