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Writing Useful Comments in String Files

Have you got an iOS app which you want to translate? If you do, you’ll probably already know you’ll need to prepare the localizable strings for translation.

You prepare strings for localization by using the NSlocalizedstrings macro in code. You might also know that it’s possible to leave notes or comments, as they’re called, alongside the strings.

Developers usually ask 3 key questions about comments:

  1. Who are comments for?
  2. What do comments do?
  3. Why should I use comments?

Let’s deal with these questions one by one.

Who are comments for?

Comments are for translators who are translating and localizing an iOS app. The history of comments might begin elsewhere but today they are used by translators in the localization industry.

There are times when comments can also be useful for developers, which you can read more about below, but either way the main principle behind comments is the same for both localization and iOS app development.

What do comments do?

Essentially, they convey useful information, both for the developer and the translator. From the iOS app development perspective, if your string id is a series of random letters and numbers, such as “id=aux_11_5698”, that doesn’t tell you much.

So to make more sense of what the string does, you might add a comment, such as /*The button for bookmarking i.e. saving a webpage in the app*/

This contextual information is useful for the iOS developer but it’s also very important information for the translator. Why? We’ll explain below.

If you want to know how to add comments in localizable strings, check out this stack overflow question.

Why should I use comments?

Language is not fixed – it’s fluid. A single word can have various meanings depending on its context.

You only have to look at the word run, which can be the action of putting one foot in front of the other at a quick pace when you say John runs marathons in his spare time, but the second you substitute “marathons” for “business” you get a whole new meaning: John runs a business in his spare time.

The meaning of words is derived from its context. When localizing strings, words are often translated at an individual level with no context around it.

For example, buttons in an app, such as print, home and the example from above bookmark. These can all have different meanings if they are taken out of their iOS app context: home would mean a house, not the home screen; print would mean an image you hang up, not the action of hitting the print button; bookmark is something you put inside a book so you can easily pick up where you left off.

To avoid getting back poor translations, leave a comment for the translator and you should get the translation you’re looking for.

Previous translations without comments?

If you've had a project already translated and you didn't make use of comments, you might be worried that some of the translations don't make any sense, bearing in mind what we said above about the importance of context.

In this case, you can ask your translator to look at the strings again, or you can send us your strings on team@applingua.com and we'll happily get a professional to look over your strings and test your translated app. If there's nothing wrong it, we won't charge you for it.

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