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Article 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 like this:

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 experience.

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 Safari.

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:

One 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.

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