Back to SharePoint 2013 and the upcoming release. We have already looked at a number of improvements that look set to make it considerably better than previous editions, but the advanced localization abilities that have just been outlined in the SharePoint blog could end up being a top selling point to companies with a global outlook.
SharePoint 2013 Goes Global
Writing on the SharePoint team blog earlier this week, John Stickler, who is a Program Manager on the SharePoint ECM team, and Kate Kelly, a program manager on the Office globalization team, have outlined some of the ways that SharePoint 2013 will fit into a global economy.
We say global economy in relation to SharePoint as it is quite clear that earlier versions deeply penetrated markets well outside the English language speaking world, and Microsoft will undoubtedly be looking to do the same with the 2013 release.
According to Kelly and Stickler, the main improvements in localization come with the Variations in SharePoint 2013, a feature first introduced in SharePoint 2007.
If you haven’t come across it before, Variations is a feature that enables users to adopt SharePoint to local markets by enabling them create geographically specific content for both Intranet and Internet published sites.
Kelly and Stickler say that they have watched the 2007 and 2010 versions to see how users are using it, and built the 2013 version to reflect those use patterns.
The result is that they have been able to adapt it to real customer scenarios, incorporating improvements to deal with common pain points and how users are trying to manage content in multiple languages. There are three main areas in which improvements will be offered:
1. Integrated Translation Support
One of the principal improvements is support for exporting and importing Variations content that can be translated. The new version of SharePoint comes with a Machine Translation Service that connects SharePoint to Microsoft Translator, but you don’t have to stick with that. It also has the ability export content as a package that you can translate yourself, or which can be sent to a third-part translator where it will be translated by humans.
However, Machine Translation is a useful way of localizing content and can be applied as an additional step after approved content has been published and synced with a site displaying content in a different language to the one it was originally approved in.
Currently, Microsoft Translator is available through Office client applications and can render content into 39 languages, with millions of pages being translated every day.
It is the ability to work with outside localization vendors that will be really interesting for those working in languages other than English. Local translation services in local geographies are generally better, which has led Microsoft to enable users to export using .XLIFF files (XML Localization Interchange File Format), a format that is increasingly used in the localization industry.
This, however, should not be confused with the Multilingual User Interface (MUI) which enables users to view the interface in whatever language suits them, but does not translate the site content.
2. Enhanced Variations
The post also says that for companies that are expanding into new markets that use languages that have not been used in the environment before, it will be easier and faster to add new languages than it has been.
Like SharePoint 2010, it runs in the timer service but runs as several different jobs as opposed to one large job as it has done in the past. The result is that if there are problems during the job you can pick up where you left off instead of having to delete partially started sites and start over.
Users can also create more variation labels than before — labels representing a locale's specific sites, lists and navigation. In fact, in the 2013 version, there is support for creating up to 209 Variation labels on-premises, one for each locale that SharePoint supports. It has also improved issues like performance and scalability in such a way as to make it accessible to Office 365 users, which now supports up to 50 Variation labels.
3. Translation Management Needs
Finally, this version of Variations has been designed to accommodate the needs of different locales, making it considerably more flexible than it has been in the past. Two different kind of content control patterns have emerged since the last time: centralized and distributed.
Centralized organizations typically have a large core body of content that is needed in all geographies. While users have their own content which they produce locally, they also have large amounts of centralized content that is being updated and that needs to be translated regularly.
In distributed control central organizations give the local content owners more control over what centralized content should be used and how it should be used. In these circumstances, local users can decide whether to opt into receiving and translating changes.
For companies with a number of different locales and SharePoint environments, these changes should be welcome. While they may well not be the selling point for the new version they will certainly come as a major bonus. More on SharePoint 2013 as it emerges.