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Making a component truly multilingual (5)

Whilst finishing up our component there were a few matters which we needed to address.


Site Map Generation

The first of these related to the generated ‘site map’ which was not displaying correctly. The problem was caused by us omitting to include the ‘new’ alternative language main menu items in our site map generation component (OSMAP/XMAP) which soon resolved the matter. To be more precise the ‘site generator component’ was installed prior to our multilingual work upon the site, so did not ‘automatically’ pick up the menu items it uses in the map generation. Obvious once one looked at it. It did reveal an addition place where we had to add out additional ‘'database query condition to include only the current displayed language (plus those marked all or undefined).   This just required adding to the ‘getCategories’ method, although to be absolutely certain that only the relevant entries were shown, we also added it to the ‘GetEntries’ method as well. This latter is probably not required except where entries are added to the incorrect categories, but acts as an extra check when the entries are generated.

Deletion of Associated Items

This actually applies to both the front end and the back end of the site. We decided to take a deeper look at the code to handle the deletion of any associations when an item is deleted. To be more precise when an item is deleted, the existing association entry for that item should also be deleted from the associations table. As originally written all association records would be removed for the deleted item and hence also for the associated items. However this is not necessary correct when there are three (3) or more associated items, since one really only wished to remove one association record.  For two associated items it is fine, since we also wish to remove the ‘other’ record in the associations table at the same time. .  So to be precise, we should for situations where there are more than 2 associations for an item, only remove the single record in the associations table, but if there are only two item, then we should remove both records from the associations table. This has worked well in all our tests and wonder why some similar code does not exists in the base Joomla components such as com_content etc. On a busy site with items being created and deleted on a regular basis we can see the situation where the database associations table would be much larger than is necessary, since there would be without similar code being present in the components, resulting in a slower response to other queries.


How the PHP tests work

One of the things we omitted to mention in our last post was how the actual code checks were working and didn’t explain what the checks were actually ‘checking’. We made use of two specific methods which we expand upon below:


This method determines if the language filter plugin is enabled.  It works for both site and administrator on the site.  If the site is supporting multiple languages then true is return else false is returned.  The presence of the language filter plugin is what is determining whether multiple languages are being used upon the site. Note it does not check whether multiple languages are actually installed.  The distinction is subtle but very clear.

JLanguageAssociations::isEnabled ()

This method is used to determine if the language filter Items Associations parameter is enabled.  One can always have a multilingual site and not make use of item associations, which is ‘relating’ items that are ‘effectively’ the same, but only expressed in a different language. An example might be a site located in a country with two different locally spoken languages (i.e. Serbia) and items are translated and presented in both languages to site visitors.

Making use of the two standard Joomla provided methods simplified our coding, however we still had to add our own code to pick up any desired associations for our displays.


To be continued…

Making a component truly Multilingual (4)

Continuing on from our earlier posts about item associations. we continue our look at the front end.  As explained this is slightly more complicated.

We require changes to the following files:

There is the module in place required by JMultilingual that performs the ‘switch’ between the various installed available languages. We need to pick up the current displayed language and modify the displayed data based upon the determined value.

We need to implement the following changes:

Models that display lists such that there is an additional statement in the SQL query to detect the language. Such a statement might look similar to the this:

        $query .= " WHERE c.language in (" . $db->quote(JFactory::getLanguage()->getTag()) . "," . $db->quote('*') . ",'')";

This will pick up all the current displayed items for the determined language and also any items that are marked as ‘All’ or undefined. Hopefully there will be no undefined items but this allows for that possibility.

The front end views need modifying to display the ‘language’ field if deemed necessary.  We need to add the ‘language’ field to any select statement so that it is then available.

Any drop down select lists (if present) similarly need modifying so that the ‘language’ criteria is also applied. i.e. If being viewed in Spanish, we do not want to display any drop down list selectable item in English. The appropriate entries would have been defined in the admin side of the site, along with the required associations.

Any list view models will probably need to have some additional criteria added to the select statement along the following lines:

if ( JLanguageMultilang::isEnabled() ) {
if (JLanguageAssociations::isEnabled() ) {
// Criteria where associations will change the displayed values.       // …    } else {       // Any criteria where associations are not used.
      // ……    } } else { // Criteria for non multilingual sites.    // Effectively the code we had before we implemented multilingual. }

Any displayed module using the component data would similarly require the language criteria to be added to any select statement. Whilst on the subject of modules it is worth mentioning that any link which might be present in the module, to display more specific data would need inspection to ensure that they still work. We found that if a menu id (itemid) is specified in the link that it did not always result in the correct data being displayed.

If we are allowing items to be deleted in the front end then we also have to modify the appropriate model delete code to handle any ‘associations’ that may exists for the item to be deleted. We can choose to use similar code to that used in the back end.

The creation of item associations in the front end was touched upon in our last post upon the subject. Further investigation reveals that there was a conscious decision by the Joomla Multilingual team not to implement associations on the various ‘base’ Joomla components, instead relying on the back end functionality to perform the necessary actions. In the lack of more information at the current time we have decided to adopt the same approach, but may change this at some later time..

To be continued…

Making a component truly Multilingual (3)

Following on from our earlier post about item associations. we next turn our attention to look at the front end.  This tends to be more complex since it is here that we are actually using the associations to impact the front end displays.  To expand upon this, when a user chooses to display the categories in for example ‘German’ it is the ‘de-DE’ categories that should be displayed, along with the appropriate ‘de-DE’ translated text.  Likewise if they then choose to display ‘English’ the ‘en-GB’ categories are displayed along with the English text.  It is also reasonable to expect that any categories that are marked as ‘All’ languages would also be displayed in each case.

The specific ‘category items’ to be displayed for a chosen language would be the ‘specific’ language items, together with the items marked as ‘All’' languages’. The question of what about the un-translated items which are not associated with a ‘specific language version has also to be considered.  This is best explained by considering a specific situation.  Assume that we have our ‘Rialto’ component available with a English (en-GB) and a German (de-DE) translation.  All of the categories are established with the correct associations, however they may well be a number of different ‘entries’ that are present in only one specific language, which would not then have any associational entries in the other language.  In our Rialto example, the entries are ‘classified advertisements’, it is not unreasonable to assume that an advert for an item to buy/sell in German, may not be of interest to an English person, and that might therefore not be a translated version of the advert created. The question is then does one display the ‘German’ item to an English viewer?

We are assuming here that the ‘English’ viewer is displaying the site in the English language, and that a ‘German’ viewer is displaying the site in the ‘German’ language.

Taking this one stage further, assume that we wish to determine the total number of entries in a specific category. On the surface this sounds simple, but once we are multilingual we have  a few additional complications. First we have the number of entries for which there is a single language specified (or all) for each of the different associated categories. This means that all the un-associated de-DE German entries in a category are counted together with the number of un-associated entries in the equivalent en-GB category are to be counted. Then we have the entries where we have an entry associated, in this case we only wish to count the entry once, even though there may be a de-DE and a en-GB translation they are effectively the same entry for counting purposes. This makes getting the total number of entries complex in terms of the SQL statement that is required, especially given the underlying table structure, involving sub-queries ( or numerous joins).

The approach we have taken is that we would only, by default display specific items in the selected ‘viewing’ language (plus items marked as being ‘all languages’).  Switching the site language to one of the other possibilities would (probably) display different entries. i.e. This marked as ‘all’ and those available in the current selected language whether associated or not).

This might seem complex but should provide the site visitor with the entries in the chosen site language and those marked as visible for ‘all’ languages.

There is also the question of which entries are displayed in the ‘module’ which displays the latest ‘n’ (where ‘n’ is the number) of entries recently opened/created.  The entries displayed are interpreted as being those created/opened in the displayed site language and those created/opened as being ‘all’ languages.

Similar to the changes for the back end we have to modify some of our code but the changes are different, mainly because it is only really the actual items created/maintained upon the front end that need the most work.  We require changes to any ‘drop down’ selection boxes so that the displayed options are in the chosen site display language, which means changes to the ‘helper’ files. Other changes relate to the displays which are themselves more involved than for the back end, since we can create entries on the front end and (presumably) also need to probably create entry associations as well. This last task is something that, from our study code reading is not something that Joomla com_content does currently so may well be something that we ourselves put on the back burner, leaving the back end to create the associations between entries. Not ideal perhaps but it seems to be something that Joomla multilingual sites are currently having to wrestle with already, so will be familiar to them.

To be continued…

Making a component truly Multilingual (1)

One of the first requests we received for our Issue Tracker component after its initial release was to make if ‘Multilingual’.  At the time we were rather busy but recorded the request with the intent to implement it later when circumstances permitted.. We recently decided to look at the changes involved in more detail but decided to look at our Rialto component, which is not so complex and would (should) be easier to modify.

It is important to clarify exactly what is meant by a component being ‘Multilingual’.  It is one thing to have language translations available for a component that can be loaded upon a site to permit the component to display the inbuilt ‘text strings;’ in the native language of the site, but this does not in itself make the component ‘Multilingual’.  Perhaps the best definition is that a site can be considered ‘Multilingual’ if it is possible to support more than one language such that one can switch from one to another via a single mouse click.  Items like site categories, menu items, and articles etc. would at the same time change to be in the selected language. A component would be ‘Multilingual’ if it can itself support such transitions. The classic Joomla component that does this is of course the ‘com_content’ component.

There is one other aspect that needs to be mentioned and this is the matter of ‘Associations’.  Joomla permits an article, or a category (amongst other things) to have an assigned language.  If one were to translate an article into another language then the site would have two (or more) identical articles each the same apart from the specific language. Joomla then permits one to ‘associate’ the one article with the other, such that the ‘seamless’ change on changing the language in use is switched is achieved.

Of course one does not necessarily have to translate all articles, and it is possible to define a default language (indicated by a ‘*’) which is display which ever site language is in use.

Our Rialto component, which is a Classified Advertisement component, is a situation where it is expected that a ‘Multilingual’ site would possibly have categories in different languages, which are probably ‘associated’ but that the specific adverts themselves (known as entries) are unlikely to be present in anything other than the one language. This does not mean that advert entries might not be in multiple languages just that the situation is not likely to be so common.

We shall describe some of the changes that were required to achieve what we desired, but given the number of changes required will split it into several parts. We will endeavour to avoid ‘too’ much specific code, and instead concentrate on the areas where we made our changes. We will also describe a few ‘opportunities’ for enhancement that we discovered whilst implementing the changes.

Just before we start into the detail it is worth mentioning that there is a component name ‘JAMultiLingual’ from Joomla Arts that can be used to set up a Joomla site for ‘Multilingual’ and certainly aids in getting started into Joomla Multilingual. It is not the only possibility but one which we have used and found very well constructed.

Language Field

The first step is to add the additional ‘language’ field to the database tables that we wish to have language contained within.

ALTER TABLE `#__rialto_categories` ADD `language` CHAR(7) NOT NULL COMMENT 'Language code';

Obviously we require the same column present upon all tables not just the one indicated. We also have to consider whether to apply a default language setting, possibly ‘All’ (*) for any existing entries that may be present in the database.

Having made the table change we then have to make the following code changes:

  • Change the component list and single item views so that the field is displayed.
  • Modify the Model ‘getItem’ (getItems) methods to return the additional language field to the views
  • Modify the Model Item ‘Save’ method so that the language field is updated when an item is updated or created. Ensure that a suitable default is applied if required
  • Note that one has to allow for the option that the component is being used upon non-multilingual sites and thus ensure that all situations are allowed for.  There are some standard Joomla language routines that enable one to test whether languages are installed (Method JLanguageMultilang::isEnabled() ), which aid in the coding.

These changes are ‘required’ for the back end, but may also be required in the front end if appropriate. It is not common to permit the creation (or editing) of Joomla categories in the front end, but it one permits the creation of ‘entries’ (articles)  in the front end, which is true for the Rialto component then we have to modify these as well. It is reasonable to assume that in the front end of the site, if a person is creating a new ‘entry’ that the language currently displayed on the site is the one in which they are entering the entry details. Otherwise one has to provide the user with the option of specifying the language they are using. 

These changes are required for all tables.

To be continued…..

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