NetBeans 5.5 in Traditional Chinese: A Noteworthy Follow-up

Chin-Lung “James” Yu (余金龍) is no stranger to translation projects. At the age of 15, he won a translation competition sponsored by Ladder English, a famous English language learning magazine in Taiwan. The task? To translate a select passage from English to Chinese. For his first-place win, he received a book: “Stuart Little” by E.B. White.

Chin-Lung "James" YuSkip ahead 20 years after that win and Yu finds himself back in the spotlight for a translation effort of a different magnitude, that of single-handedly localizing the NetBeans 5.5 IDE into Traditional Chinese (zh_TW), a version that was successfully released February 26. But instead of a hard-cover reward, he has the satisfaction of knowing that  Taiwanese developers can begin to work with the NetBeans IDE in their own language.

The localization of the NetBeans IDE into Traditional Chinese is the latest successful community-driven contribution from the NetBeans Translation Project, which offers guidance and support for users interested in creating local language versions of the NetBeans IDE and Platform, and web pages. In December 2006, the Brazilian Portuguese version of NetBeans 5.5 was released by a team of Brazilian developers working under the auspices of the Translation Project. Coincidentally, coming across the announcement of the Brazilian Portuguese release of NetBeans 5.5 spurred Yu, a PhD candidate in molecular and medical pharmacology, to consider translating the IDE into Traditional Chinese.

“I heard that the new NetBeans 5.5 had been much improved in features and performance than earlier versions that I had tried before, so I started to try it out and saw how I could switch from Eclipse,” said Yu who uses Java to develop tools that process and analyze molecular images for his research.

“Then one day in December, when I started up the IDE to practice I saw an announcement in the welcome screen that NetBeans 5.5 had been translated into Japanese, Simplified Chinese, and Brazilian Portuguese. This announcement immediately made me think about translating 5.5 into Traditional Chinese, so I signed up with the translation team and volunteered to take on the Traditional Chinese localization project.”

With little experience translating software products or participating in an open-source community effort, and still a novice with the NetBeans IDE, Yu began translating with the guidance of members of the Translation Project. In three short weeks, he had completely translated the IDE.

Screenshot of NetBeans IDE in Traditional Chinese
(Click on image for larger view)

Three additional contributors: Koji Lin (林康司), Mike Lin (林上傑) and David Lin (林子鐸)—(no relation between the three)—responded to a recruitment thread on , a popular developer site in Taiwan, and signed up to review, update and test Yu’s work. In joining the project, the three developers wrote that they recognized a need for turning the NetBeans 5.5 IDE into a Chinese-based IDE for Taiwanese developers who would otherwise ignore the IDE in its English form.

Mike Lin, a training consultant with Sun Taiwan and who teaches developers in Traditional Chinese about Java technology and recently about NetBeans 5.5, thought it was logical that his students have access to a localized version of the IDE. David Lin, a graduate student in computer science and a NetBean user for four years, enjoyed working with the new features of 5.5 and wanted to make the IDE popular among other Taiwanese developers. Likewise, Koji Lin, who uses NetBeans in his job as a Java web developer, was attracted to Matisse and the IDE’s convenient web application development environment, and thought others like him ought to know about NetBeans.

Although the NetBeans 5.5 IDE is available in Simplified Chinese, a Traditional Chinese version was needed to accommodate variations in the Chinese language. Derived from Traditional Chinese, characters in Simplified Chinese contain fewer strokes and thus are easier to learn. The form, which was created over 50 years ago to promote literacy, is used primarily in Mainland China, Singapore, and Malaysia, while Traditional Chinese is dominant in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, and the majority of Chinese communities abroad. According to Yu, having the IDE already translated into Simplified Chinese was an advantage. Because of the shared root of the two forms he translated from Simplified Chinese to Traditional Chinese, a quicker process than from English. Translating certain Java terminologies that some developers prefer to use in English was an occasional challenge.

While Taiwanese developers can now experience the bliss of working in the NetBeans 5.5 IDE in Traditional Chinese, German-speaking developers won't be far behind, thanks to another translation project that is nearing completion. Ruth Kusterer, a NetBeans technical writer, Christoph Strobel, Holger Stenzhorn and Peter Heusch, are localizing NetBeans 5.5 into German.

The Brazilian developers may have seemed a tough act to follow, but their work has inspired users like James Yu and other language communities to initiate and complete noteworthy localizations of their own.

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