te-code logo

Source code for the real world™ Java | .NET

Easy I18N/L10N Using TE-Common

Andrew S. Townley 21-Nov-2004

This article will provide a brief overview of the I18N facilities provided by TE-Common and illustrate how they may be used to localize your programs.

The Java platform provides all of the basic building blocks for allowing you to write I18N-aware programs. However, the default facilities for managing application resources do not easily support sharing of common strings across your applications without dealing with a lot of code. Using the ResourceManager and ResourceLoader classes can simplify this task a great deal.

Imagine that you have an application which consists of 3 packages, related as in Figure 1, below:

Figure 1: Example Package Hierarchy

Figure 1: Example Package Hierarchy

Logically, the core localized versions of the application resources should be defined within pkg1, however pkg2 should be able to not only use these strings, but selectively override them if necessary--without having to redefine the whole set of resources.

Fortunately, this is exactly the problem that the ResourceManager and ResourceLoader were designed to solve, however they can't do it on their own. The answer is to borrow an idea from the Jakarta Tomcat source and use a package-private class to manage the resources for a given package.

Accessing the Resources

First, we create the package-private class definition. The one below is from the com.townleyenterprises.tool package, but it would work equally well dropped into your own projects. Following the Jakarta example, we'll call it Strings.

Unfortunately, there's a lot of boilerplate code here that I would prefer to get rid of, however, I really haven't come up with a better way. You could create a new class which gets wrapped by the package-private class, but I still think you'd end up with something very similar to what's below.

 1 package com.townleyenterprises.tool;
 3 import java.util.MissingResourceException;
 5 import com.townleyenterprises.common.Version;
 6 import com.townleyenterprises.common.ResourceManager;
 7 import com.townleyenterprises.common.ResourceLoader;
 9 final class Strings
10 {
11         static void addResources(Object obj, String name)
12         {
13                 try
14                 {
15                         _resources.manage(
16                                 new ResourceLoader(
17					obj.getClass(), name));
18                 }
19                 catch(MissingResourceException e)
20                 {
21                         // ignored
22                 }
23         }
25         static ResourceManager getManager()
26         {
27                 return _resources;
28         }
30         static String get(String key)
31         {
32                 String rc = _resources.getString(key);
33                 if(rc == null)
34                         rc =  key;
36                 return rc;
37         }
39         static String format(String key, Object[] args)
40         {
41                 String rc = _resources.format(key, args);
42                 if(rc == null)
43                         rc = key;
45                 return rc;
46         }
48         private static final ResourceManager _resources = new 
49						 ResourceManager();
51         static
52         {
53                 _resources.manage(new ResourceLoader(Version.class));
54                 _resources.manage(new ResourceLoader(Strings.class));
55         }
56 }

Listing 1: Package-private Strings Class

In this version, I have removed all of the comments and reformatted it so that it fits better in the browser. To see the full version, please download the source code.

The main methods of interest are the get and format methods. These are the ones you will use in your implementation classes to either retrieve a resource string or to retrieve a resource format specifier which will be formatted according to the current locale.

The getManager method is primarily used in the rare cases when you need to retrieve a resource for a specific locale which differs from the current one. For the most part, you will probably not need this facility, but it is there, should you do.

How Does It Work?

The implementation of the Strings class is deceptively simple, but it hides the majority of the work being done by the ResourceManager to which it delegates (this is another reason I don't know how much simpler you can get this class, btw). The import on line 5 is required so we don't have to type so much on line 53. The imports on lines 6 and 7 allow us to use the two main classes that make everything work.

The ResourceManager supports inheritance of what eventually boil down to be ResourceBundle instances loaded by the ResourceLoader class. Each new ResourceLoader provides a new ResourceBundle to the ResourceManager. Any existing resource keys present in the ResourceManager are re-mapped to the value contained in the last ResourceLoader instance. Lines 53 and 54 show the resources contained in the package for Version.class are merged with those present in the current package (loaded by using a reference to the Strings.class). In your own code, you would add as many calls to ResourceManager.manage as necessary to get the resources you needed.

In my own code, I've adopted a simple resource naming convention which is a bit of a hold-over from my days working with Informix in Lenexa. The convention says that string resources which are normal messages should start with 's'. So a message saying, "Hello, world!" might be called sHelloWorld. On the other hand, a message which was to be formatted before display should start with 'f'. In this way, the message "Hello, {0}!" might be called fHello.

Normally, I hate this sort of naming convention--especially for variables, but in this situation, I find that it easily lets me keep track of those strings which have format specifiers and those that don't. Once you start having a lot of messages, these things can matter around 4:00AM when you're trying to figure out why something doesn't work.

Putting It All Together

Once the Strings class is present and correctly initialized, it is a trivial matter to use it from your own code. For example, this excerpt from the mkcpbat utility illustrates the use of the Strings.get method to initialize the com.townleyenterprises.command.CommandParser used to parse the command line arguments.

 81 public final class mkcpbat
 82 {
 83         public static void main(String[] args)
 84         {
 85                 new mkcpbat(args);
 86         }
 88         /**
 89          * The constructor is the 'main' of the application.
 90          *
 91          * @param args the command-line arguments
 92          */
 94         private mkcpbat(String[] args)
 95         {
 96                 // add the resources
 97                 Strings.addResources(this, "mkcpbat");
 98                 _parser = new CommandParser("mkcpbat",
 99                                 Strings.get("sFileArgs"));
100                 _parser.setExitOnMissingArg(true, -1);
101                 _parser.addCommandListener(new OptionHandler());
102                 _parser.setExtraHelpText(
103                         Strings.get("smkcpbatExtraHelpTextPreamble"),
104                         Strings.get("smkcpbatExtraHelpTextPostamble"));

Listing 2: Using Strings.get

An interesting point to note is line 97. This line adds an additional resource bundle which is specific to the application. When you have many command-line utilities in the same package, but with slightly different resource requirements, this technique is a good way to ensure that for the execution of the JVM, the resources needed by the tool are always on the "top" of the stack.

In a similar fashion to the above listing, this error handling routine uses the Strings.format method to handle the formatting of exceptions before printing them to stderr.

125   catch(IOException e)
126   {
127           System.err.println(Strings.format("fGeneralError",
128                    new Object[] { e.getMessage() }));
130           if(_verbose.getMatched())
131           {
132                    e.printStackTrace();
133           }
134           System.exit(-1);
135   }

Listing 3: Using Strings.format

Should your application need access to images or other types of resources, it is a simple matter to add in a new method to the Strings class which will provide them. However, it might be strange to be asking the Strings class to give you an image, but this is a case where the overhead of an additional class might not be worth the effort.

Hopefully, you now have an overview of how you can introduce i18n handling into your applications in a straightforward fashion. The technique using the Strings class is repeatable for every package in your application for which you need localized resources. For more details, you can look at the source code for TE-Common. I have provided an implementation of this idiom in each of the packages using resources, so along with this article, it should allow you to use this technique in your own code.