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Dr. Tom's Independent Software Reviews

presents:

AIT Visual Localize .NET 4.1

Introduction:

AIT (Applied Information Technologies) was founded in 1991 and transferred into an AG (corporation - with the speciality that all shares belong to the staff) in 2000. AIT is a pioneer in the development of applications under MS Windows in Germany especially in the field of automation engineering and robotics. Besides the development of complex applications for large international groups and medium-sized enterprises (customized eBusiness Solutions based on the AIT eBusiness Engines as well as on the Microsoft Commerce Server 2000 and Biztalk platform) AIT has developed reusable software components to solve various challenges more efficiently.
Visual Localize was developed together with a renowned U.S. based company (Honeywell International Inc.) to localize software into different languages fast and efficiently. Today, the tool is exclusively further developed and marketed by AIT. In addition AIT also offers Localizations services themselves.
Having been able to obtain project experience in the early stages of the Microsoft .NET development, AIT AG is today one of the leading solution provider of applications based on the Microsoft .NET platform in Germany.

Fig. 1: The Main User Interface of Visual Localize consists of several windows.
Please click on the image for a closer look!

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Features:

Visual Localize is a specialized Software tool for the Localization of Software, .NET applications, XML Data and Web Sites as well as Microsoft databases (Microsoft SQL-Server + Access Databases). The application supports many languages including Arabic, Chinese and Japanese as well as French, German and English. The support of bidirectional languages such as Arabic and Hebrew and languages using vertical typesets and a large number of characters like Chinese and Japanese is achieved by a complete support of Unicode- and Multi byte-character sets.
For the localization of binary files, Visual Localize supports the translation of C++, C# and Visual Basic applications that run on MS Windows 3.X / 95 / 98 / 2000 / NT and CE. Supported file types are .EXE, .DLL, .OCX files as well as .NET assemblies, created by a Microsoft compiler. The translator does not need access to the original source files which can be a very important security factor. In contrast to many other localization tools, more than one file can be loaded into a Visual Localize project. This way a more consistent terminology is ensured throughout all modules.
Using optional add-in modules, Visual Localize is able to localize XML- and MS database files (MS SQL Server, MS Access). Text information is extracted from the files and after translation saved back without interference with the file or database structure. While translating, a run-time preview is offered by linking to an existing style sheet (XSL, Fig. 2). If no XSL file is available, the source code will be displayed in the preview window instead. As the XML source code cannot be accessed, the translator cannot modify or unintentionally damage the source.

Fig. 2: Translation of XML Files using Visual Localize
If a XLS file is available, the Preview window shows the resulting HTML output.
Please note, that non-translatable strings can be set to read-only (r.o.).

You may click on the image for a closer look!

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Visual Localize offers automated translation of previously localized terms and phrases. Existing translations are automatically adapted for close matches. A similar approach is used for automatic Translation Version Control. Whenever you update your application, the "reload" function aligns your existing project to the new version. Your previous translations are adopted - you only have to translate new strings or dialog controls. A third semi-automated translation option enables you to re-use existing translations in any of the supported formats, from other Visual Localize projects, dictionaries and application pairs or as delimited text files created by other localization tools. If more than one translation of a term or phrase exists, conflicting translations can be selected or excluded automatically using predefined parameters or manually by the user (Fig. 3a). All these functions help you to avoid unnecessary repetitions and ensure a higher level of consistency in your terminology.

Fig. 3a: Strategies to resolve conflicting translations
You may click on the image for a closer look!
Fig. 3b: Global Search & Replace offers many options and filters
You may click on the image for a closer look!


Dialogs, menus and other control elements can be translated and modified very easily using Visual Localize's WYSIWYG-Resource View which allows you to fit and position the translated phrases within the controls. For comparison you can always switch between the original and the localized controls. Since the correct translation of terms and phrases depends on the context, the Resource View also enables the user to translate context oriented. In addition, you can define certain text as context dependent exceptions for translations only used in a certain context. Errors such as overlapping control elements and text that does not fit into controls are automatically detected by the Layout Consistency Check. In addition to errors in the graphical interface of the project, Visual Localize also proofs your project for missing ampersands and accelerator errors (Fig. 1 and 3).

Fig. 3: Translation of a Dialog Box using Visual Localize
The resource window offers a combined WYSIWYG dialog transformer and preview. In addition, the localized dialog box can be generated at runtime as a popup window.

You may click on the image for a closer look!

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Another nice little feature of Visual Localize allows you to add comments to every line of text. This is especially helpful if more than one person work at the same project or whenever a user is not sure about a translation and wants to get back to it at a later time. Various filters can be used to enable and display or disable and hide parts of the text strings (Fig. 3b). You can for example decide whether you want all entries to be displayed or only those which still need translation.
Visual Localize distinguishes between standard users and administrators. By this only authorized users can define or alter new projects or determine whether certain phrases are excluded from translations.
Other small but handy functions include a Search & Replace function (Fig. 3b), a
dialog containing all relevant properties (resource types, number of translated resources) of a selected object which can be called by the user at any time and various possibilities to flags strings and save Log-Files protocolling the translation process. An easy to operate user interface in Windows Explorer "Look and Feel" enables you to get acquainted quickly to Visual Localize's many features and translate a project efficiently.

Editions & Prices:

.NET-Versions for the localization of .NET assemblies (EXE, DLL) & creation of satellite assemblies: Visual Localize 4.1 - basic license Euro 995; - premium license (incl. DB + XML): Euro 1395.

WIN-Versions for the localization of Windows standard binaries (EXE, DLL, OCX): Visual Localize 3.04 -
basic license Euro 639; - premium license (incl. DB + XML) Euro 999.

DB (Microsoft SQL-Server + Access Databases) and XML Translation Engine (Add-On, basic license needed!): Euro 399 each.

Fig. 4: Translation of a MS Access Database using Visual Localize
You may click on the image for a closer look!

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Usage & Evaluation

After a smooth and painless installation, Visual Localize features a straight forward user interface in the familiar Microsoft Explorer "Look & Feel" which makes it easy to learn and use the tool. The learning curve is also enhanced by an exceptionally detailed and fairly illustrated PDF manual, which still has to be updated to include the new .NET features in the upcoming version 4.2. For most windows, Visual Localize allows you to choose between the free positioning or docking within the main interface. This way you can effectively use the available screen space.

The establishment of projects containing any amount and combination of the supported file formats (windows binaries, .NET assembies, XML files and MS databases) is fast and efficient. Translation procedures of text strings are clearly organized in a table-like view and allow for optional second meaning translations and the assignment of read-only strings. Visual Localize assists you to prepare accurate translations taking context information into account by displaying where a certain string was used before. Linking of this display also allows for fast navigation to the selected phrases.
Most remarkable is Visual Localize's Resource View which enables real-time WYSIWYG control editing supported by some nifty align functions. Dialog control editing is further enhanced by a preview of the dialog at runtime. Unlimited Undo functions assure that you can try out several possibilities before settling for the best solution without the fear of loosing previous versions. In version 4, Visual Localize mainly added .NET support. Grouped control elements (e.g. .NET panels) are included when the target dialog is displayed rather than splitting them into further dialog masks. This again enhances context sensitive translation.
Powerful checking functions allow you to pinpoint any inconsistencies, typical errors in accelerator keys and the sizing and positioning of control elements. A nice feature for users on a Windows 9x Kernel (Windows 95, 98 and ME) is the ability to save back localized EXE files. This is achieved by an internal handling avoiding the limitations of the Windows 9x API.
Your Software localization projects can easily be adapted to new updates / upgrades or versions by just importing the new application, file or database into your project. Only new or altered strings will be displayed for translation. This ensures consistency and avoids redundand translation of already processed strings.

A further advantage of Visual Localize is the SoftLock licence protection instead of a dongle. You can easily save and even export your license temporarily or permanently to any other machine - even by email. This way it is possible to export your license temporarily and send it to a translator in another country for processing one of your projects. After finishing up, your associate can easily export your license back to you by E-mail. The only drawback to this excellent idea is that you will face additional costs for the reissuing of your license by AIT, if your license was not saved and exported properly. In some cases the SoftLock license protection might cause problems if there is an earlier demo installation on your system installed. In addition, every system crash or intended change of the operation system, requires a new SoftLock license which will be send to you by AIT’s support for a small handling fee.

Unfortunately, there is no support to import / export in TMX, TBX, XLIFF or important 3rd party tool formats besides a basic support of TRADOS to export Visual Localize dictionaries. The only connection into the other world is established through ASCII text format. However, AIT communicated, that they have scheduled linking to TRADOS Translator’s Workbench as well as TMX export for a later version of Visual Localize .NET.
As AIT tries to offer Visual Localize at a very competitive price and they allow the temporary export of licenses, there is no free satellite version for freelance translators as it is by now standard in all other Software Localization tools I tested so far.

Visual Localize’s strength and main development focus is the localization of Windows binaries. It is therefore no surprise that its optional XML translation engine lacks some functionality which are common in other products. The module does not read or list used tags nor does it allow you to specify which tags are translatable or not. Instead of that, Visual Localize uses String ID’s where every string has to be defined as read-only if you do not want it to be translated. This is a by far less effective and very time consuming procedure. Another shortcoming is that in order to exclude tags from translation, your XML file has to be pre-edited using an external text or XML editor. Although this was intentionally designed to avoid accidential translations, this function could also easily be implemented into the internal XML-Editor. Administrators should be able to lock and hide certain tags for translators without administrator rights just from within the localization tool. A third drawback is the lack of support of DTDs or XML schemas and any filter building component such as it is found in most other XML processing localization tools. AIT is currently running test to include DTD support. If you need to translate XML files, you are by far better of using Alchemy CATALYST, MULTILIZER, TransSuite2000, Déjà Vu or SDLX.

Minor shortcomings are some interface problems such as blocked views when importing conflicting translations. There is no automatic recognition of source languages and many interfaces are not properly localized into English. This will not be obviously for most users of the English version as these dialogs are adopted from Microsoft Windows and if you run an English version, these dialogs will be in English. In General, there should also be some improvement in the English translation of the Software, documentation and web pages. As Visual Localize gets more popular internationally, these are already planned activities for the upcomming versions of this amazing localization tool. Another minor drawback is Visual Localize's directory selection without support of windows system directories such as "Desktop" and "My Files".

In conclusion, Visual Localize is a sound and effective tool for the localization of Windows binaries, .NET assemblies and Microsoft databases offering a good value in terms of price-performance ratio, especially if you do not need the database module. In contrast to this, I can not recommend VisLoc's XML engine in the current state.

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System Requirements:
Pentium with at least 90 MHz processor, 32 MB RAM, 80 MB HD space, SVGA graphic card and CD-ROM drive (for installation only) running Microsoft Windows 95 or 98 (Visual Localize version 3.04) or 98/ ME / NT /2000 / XP. Microsoft .NET Frameword (Version 1.0) if you wish to localize .NET
satellite assemblies in 4.1 .NET

Company Information:
AIT AG - Applied Information Technologies; Höhenstraße 21, D-70736 Stuttgart/ Fellbach; Phone: +49 711 52047310, Fax: +49 711 52047330; E-mail: info@visloc.com, URL: http://www.visloc.com

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Dr. Thomas Wassmer, fax: +49 (6204) 9868263, e-mail: tom at infotom.com

Translation & Localization