The Java native2ascii tool (also important for you XPages geeks)

To prepare for our upcoming trip to Tokyo I’ve been working on a Japanese translation of our OnTime Group Calendar 2011 client for Notes based on Java plugins. The internationalization engine (i18n) was already in place so it was merely a matter of doing the translation (thanks to Google Translate and friends) and then adding language files to our API. In that process one becomes very thankful of UTF-8 and the fact that Java works natively in UTF-8.

Please note that the approach discussed in this post translates (excuse the pun) directly to making translation files for XPages as well.

Using the Japanese translation the GUI looks like the below screen shot (cropped of course).



(click the image for a large version)

The funny thing about most non-Latin languages is that even though you have the translations it’s hard to impossible to write the characters yourself. And once you have the words getting them into the language files which are mere property files. Take the weekdays in Japanese as an example:

月曜日
火曜日
水曜日
木曜日
金曜日
土曜日
日曜日

Because we’re running the OnTime Group Calendar out of Notes and because Notes is fully double-byte compatible we could actually just add the Japanese characters directly to the translation document. Instead however we opted to use the Java way that is the native2ascii tool.

The native2ascii tool is shipped with the JDK and lets you translate a file containing native characters to their UTF-8 equivalent escape sequences. So having my Japanese characters in japanese_source.txt and wanting to store the result in japanese_result.txt I simply ran the following command:

native2ascii -encoding UTF8 japanese_source.txt japanese_result.txt

The encoding parameter specifies the character encoding of the source file (here japanese_source.txt). The result is something like this:

u6708u66dcu65e5
u706bu66dcu65e5
u6c34u66dcu65e5
u6728u66dcu65e5
u91d1u66dcu65e5
u571fu66dcu65e5
u65e5u66dcu65e5

Chose escape sequences go directly into the language property file and when read into a Java property file they are automatically translated into Japanese. Sweet!