How much extra space to allow in software strings
Thread poster: cbcoti

cbcoti
Local time: 18:46
English to Danish
Mar 20, 2013

I work in a software development department. The current design guidelines for string space is UK text + 20%. Knowing that German typically requires 30% extra space compared to UK text, we obviously have a problem. The result is a mix of last minute code changes and shortening of translations.

We translated into 20 different languages, maybe more to come. If we want to avoid space issues, how much extra space should be added for each string?


 

Terry Richards
France
Local time: 18:46
French to English
+ ...
Do the german first Mar 20, 2013

I consulted for a while with a major German international company. They always developed the German screens first and the other languages would always fit.

 

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 19:46
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Why save on memory? Mar 20, 2013

I have never understood why software companies try to squeeze these strings into a minimum of space. Memory should be no issue anymore since decades already.
There is no rule. If the source uses acronyms, the target language might need full words in order to be comprehensible. Romanian languages are even longer than German even without acronyms.


 

Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 18:46
English to Russian
+ ...
Try Finnish and Russian Mar 20, 2013

From my experience, Finnish and Russian make good benchmarks: Finnish is known for very long words (and so is Estonian), while Russian (and other Eastern Slavic languages) would often require more words than usual (for normal texts it would be just the opposite, but short strings in Russian are just hard to condense without crippling them). Both require more space than German.

 

Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 18:46
English to Russian
+ ...
to Heinrich Mar 20, 2013

Saving on memory is obviously a legacy of the years past, when memory was expensive and every byte was important. About 30 years ago, I found the ultimate example of frugality in the executable code of one utility for the PDP-11 computer - to report an operation failure, it would use the same string as for the success message, but change two bytes in it, transforming the word CORRECT into CORRUPT.

 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:46
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
These are just averages Mar 20, 2013

cbcoti wrote:
The current design guidelines for string space is UK text + 20%. Knowing that German typically requires 30% extra space compared to UK text, we obviously have a problem.


The 30% is just an average. For a given string, the German might be shorter, the same length, 30% longer, or 200% longer, depending on the actual text.

Heinrich Pesch wrote:
I have never understood why software companies try to squeeze these strings into a minimum of space. Memory should be no issue anymore since decades already.


Erm, screen space.


[Edited at 2013-03-20 12:31 GMT]


 

Rossana Triaca  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 13:46
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
W3C Recommendations for European Languages Mar 20, 2013

For an interesting analysis please check out this short W3C's article "Text size in translation", which includes handy numerical benchmarks from IBM for European languages.

In a nutshell, the shorter the English text is, the higher text expansion will be in all languages... and yes, German is usually the worst offender :)

As a translator, I want to thank you profusely for taking the time to delve into localization & internationalization issues, and I can assure you the end quality of the product it's definitely worth the time investment!


 

cbcoti
Local time: 18:46
English to Danish
TOPIC STARTER
It's because we deliver to customers with old equipment Mar 20, 2013

Well, partly that's why. Some issues beyond my influence are:

-We deliver for very small screen resolutions
-We do not change the layout in any language version
-Our marketing department loves multi-word terms
-We carry around legacy that hinders complete redesign. Even new screens have inherited constraints.

It is not a memory issue.

I am trying to change a tradition where it's just seen as the translator's problem if a translated string doesn't fit. In my opinion, it is a design flaw if we expect no strings to me more than 20% longer than the UK source.

In my experience, Finnish is not difficult to fit in. Maybe because of the mulit-word terms we often use. Finnish words are longer, true, but a sentence is much shorter. Polish is often the most challenging or our languages.

Thanks a lot to all of you for input. I find the W3C article particularly helpful, as it is something concrete I can take to developers, designers, and our managers. I understand that we can never be certain before a specific translation is made - but with these benchmarks we can at least reduce space issues to a minimum.


 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

How much extra space to allow in software strings

Advanced search







TM-Town
Manage your TMs and Terms ... and boost your translation business

Are you ready for something fresh in the industry? TM-Town is a unique new site for you -- the freelance translator -- to store, manage and share translation memories (TMs) and glossaries...and potentially meet new clients on the basis of your prior work.

More info »
BaccS – Business Accounting Software
Modern desktop project management for freelance translators

BaccS makes it easy for translators to manage their projects, schedule tasks, create invoices, and view highly customizable reports. User-friendly, ProZ.com integration, community-driven development – a few reasons BaccS is trusted by translators!

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search