For Users by Users: NetBeans 5.5 in Brazilian Portuguese

To borrow a line from an old African proverb: It takes a community—of NetBeans users—to spear-head a successful translation project.

As Brazilian developers start to work within the newly released Brazilian Portuguese version of the NetBeans 5.5 IDE, many may be surprised to learn that the version of the IDE in their native language was made possible thanks to a handful of users like them.

The recent release of the NetBeans 5.5 IDE in Brazilian Portuguese is a testament to the efforts of NetBeans community members and Java developers in Brazil who collaborated through the NetBeans Translation Project to help localize the IDE for their fellow Brazilian developers.


Attracting a wider, more diverse audience of users has always been a core goal of NetBeans. But even as the NetBeans IDE and Platform continue to rapidly gather fans worldwide the daunting challenge of localizing the IDE for legions of non-English speaking users remains a constant. The NetBeans Translation Project is an attempt to handle the challenge of localization by relying on the very same community of users it proposes to help. The project provides guidance and support for users to create versions of the NetBeans IDE and Platform, and web pages in their native languages.

According to NetBeans' new Community Manager Bruno Souza, the project is essential to the growth of NetBeans.

"NetBeans has such a large and diverse community that the only way our products can evolve to meet the requirements of all is if the community gets involved. The Translation Projects is an examples of this: the community taking on the task of adapting NetBeans to suit their own realities and requirements."

When the localization project for Brazilian Portuguese was announced (initially for NetBeans 5.0) the community’s response and the coordination efforts were unparalleled. A team of 12 developers led by Michel Graciano, a Java programmer and active NetBeans user, joined forces to deliver a Brazilian Portuguese version that would launch in time with two other multilingual projects for Japanese and Simplified Chinese.

As the Brazilian Portuguese project morphed to keep up with NetBeans IDE’s upgrade to 5.5, members of SouJava, Brazil's largest Java User Group, were instrumental in publicizing the translation project, and also providing support and feedback. Bruno Souza, who introduced several developers to the project, also served as consultant and cheerleader for the active members working tirelessly on the translations.

For Graciano and his team, which included Leonardo Galvão, the Editor-in-chief of both NetBeans Magazine and Java Magazine Brazil, the main challenge, not surprisingly, was coordinating a scattered team of volunteers with already demanding professional lives. The group communicated primarily through email and Wiki pages that Graciano created to track the team’s work and progress. Other pages offered instructions on issues such as using the translation tools, filing bugs, clarifying terminology and grammar, and more.

Although the work was often challenging and the volunteers worked on their time, most would agree with team member Henrique Meira, one of the top-three contributors, who said the payoff was the satisfaction that came from participating in the translation project.

Souza hopes the work done by the Brazilian team will encourage other community members to start similar translation projects.

"The [Brazilian] group did a great job of organizing and streamlining their work. And along the way they established relationships with people at Sun and NetBeans. These are useful steps for other initiatives."

Thanks to the invaluable work of the Brazilian team, Brazilian developers working with the NetBeans 5.5 IDE are unlikely to find themselves lost in translation.

There is still time for more NetBeans users to take part in the translation project for the Brazilian Portuguese version—by signing up for the testing phase. The deadline has been extended to January 31, 2007, and participants will have a chance to win an iPod. Sign up now.

Meet team leader Michel Graciano and team member Henrique Meira

Michel Graciano

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Currently, I am a Java desktop developer, working mainly with Swing and NetBeans. I’ve been a NetBeans user for about four years; a Java programmer for about five.

How did you hear about the localization project?

I subscribe to a number of important NetBeans mailing lists. I saw some discussion about the translation project, and decided to join the team when it was focused on 5.0. The translation project was a chance to work more closely with the NetBeans development team—to reduce the distance between users and the people who create the product.

Leonardo Galvão, Michel Graciano, Bruno Souza
From left to right: Leonardo Galvão, Michel Graciano, Bruno Souza

What were your biggest challenges as the project coordinator?

There were several key challenges: consistency of the translation style and terminology across many contributors; keeping the team motivated and active; coordinating the translation reviews and commits. To handle these, we used the NetBeans Wiki pages to document team activities, processes, and best practices. Additionally, we archived the translation memory files for re-use on the Wiki. We also used our own language-specific mailing list for team communication.

Maintaining good translation quality was the main concern for the leads because we had a heterogeneous team of experienced and new translators and reviewers. So we assigned the experienced translators to do reviews and had newcomers work on translations. This approach worked quite well and we were able to achieve our goal. The secret was not to be too autocratic, because the team was doing the work voluntarily. But it was fun. Omega-T , the translation memory editor, was a good tool for re-using translations from 5.0 and across the various 5.5 modules.

Why is it important to localize NetBeans into Portuguese?

In my humble opinion, localizing NetBeans minimizes problems for new Java programmers who are Brazilian. Since many don't know English or are not yet experienced Java programmers, reducing or eliminating the language problem will make new users feel a better sense of accomplishment. Our main targets were universities and education programs that offer Java classes. Another key point is that the Brazilian government needs software in our native language. If this application is not translated the government will not adopt it as a development tool. Additionally, an initiative like this compels the community, for example, the Brazilian NetBeans community, to become more powerful.

Your team’s work is a translation project success story; what advice would you give to others interested in starting something similar?

It is important to be well-organized and to have well-defined processes and roles for all contributors. Why? Because it is important for each contributor to see himself/herself as an integral part of the project. When all the parts work well together, work progresses. Otherwise, when someone has a problem, all processes are affected. So, organize the roles, define goals, and set deadlines. And of course, it is hard work, but the reward comes from seeing it done!

Henrique Meira

What was your introduction to NetBeans?

I have studied and worked with Java since 2000. Some time later, I started web development and discovered NetBeans 3.4. It's been my work environment ever since. I love it!

What attracted you to the localization project?

I have professional reasons. Currently, I am working (parallel with Data Integration Tool) on standalone tributary software to be built on top of NetBeans, and one of the priorities is that it must be in Portuguese.

Henrique Meira

Can you tell us about your experience on the project?

I worked mostly on translations and revisions to the builds. I started off choosing main modules, then later larger ones, that needed to be translated. I wasn’t particularly interested in accumulating points for the contest because we did not have a lot of translators and I was worried about us meeting the deadline. I moved on to build revisions when more people began to join the group and I felt that I needed to leave some modules for others to work on. When I completed some build revisions, I returned to help with completing the translations, again because of our deadline. We finished the project, so it worked out well.

Was it a difficult transition moving from NetBeans 5.0 to 5.5?

There were no problems; though initially I was a bit apprehensive because I wasn’t sure if all the translation done for 5.0 could be used for 5.5. But Michel did a great job of merging the two versions. Also working on 5.0 was helpful because it gave me the how-to tools I needed to be able to work on the translation project. When we started on 5.5, I didn’t have to learn anything different and was able to work faster.

Multiple collaborators in different locations, how did the team handle that issue?

It was a challenge to line up all translators to accomplish one goal and to always keep the translations consistent among different modules. We tried to maintain strong contact with each other by email or by instant messenging. We would talk about doubts, make suggestions, anything related to the project.

What impact will the multilingual release have on Brazilian developers?

In general, the release will be very useful for anyone working on applications that need to be built on top of NetBeans. Specifically, for new users, NetBeans will become very attractive, mainly because it gives them a chance to learn in their native language. For experienced developers, I believe that it will take more time to get their interest.

Why is this?

Because they are used to working in the English version! Like I did in the past. To change this, we need to seduce them with literature that references the localized Brazilian Portuguese NetBeans IDE. For this reason, I would like to translate a lot of tutorials from the website.

How would you describe the experience of working with other Brazilian developers?

Very productive, and the most important: fun!

More contributors to the NetBeans 5.5 Brazilian Portuguese release.

The effort to make the NetBeans IDE available in a range of languages continues. Community members interested in translating the NetBeans IDE, Platform or creating pages in their native languages should visit the Translation Project page.

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