Drupal 8 multilingual tidbits 6: easier right to left styling

Up to date as of October 16th, 2015.

One of the strongly supported language features of Drupal is right to left (RTL) language support. For some Drupal core versions, introducing an RTL language on the site is easy. Language settings include the choice of left to right and right to left orientation per language. This is still the same in Drupal 8.

There are two notable improvements though. Language settings being at the front of the installer, we have clean support for right to left orientation from picking the install profile even:

Also, Drupal 6 and 7 had a special solution for writing right to left CSS. For any CSS file in the system (file.css), you could have an RTL counterpart (file-rtl.css) that was automatically added to the page when needed. This was a Drupalism and browsers got much better at supporting attribute selectors in the past years, so now the right to left CSS is all integrated in the actual CSS files. You should now use attribute selectors such as [dir="rtl"] to target specific parts of the CSS at RTL displays. By keeping the right to left styles close to the base CSS, there is less chance for mistakes and missing or out of sync RTL styling, so we hope this will result in even better RTL support!

See https://drupal.org/node/2032405 for more information and code examples.

Issues to work on

  • DONE! Ok, ok, I cheated a bit with the above screenshot. There is still a bug with the sidebar position of the installer in RTL. See https://drupal.org/node/2033137 - should be an easy one to fix though
  • One more thing that you may notice on the screenshot is that even English text got the RTL treatment in terms of the placement of the end of sentence period. This is not a very easy problem to resolve. An issue is going for over two years at https://drupal.org/node/1165476 to resolve this by printing additional language and direction information in this case, so the browser knows which parts are not in the (RTL) language requested. This would be useful for left to right settings also to mark the language of parts that are untranslated. Creative ideas welcome!
  • There still may be missing RTL styles, especially on the administration interface. See https://www.drupal.org/node/2359331 for a collection of issues dealing with the situation.

Drupal 8 multilingual tidbits 5: almost limitless language assignment

Up to date as of October 16th, 2015.

As we touched on in the detection options tidbit and when talking about language configuration, the site default language used to be a very key (and higly dangerous to change) setting, because all the things that were in an unspecified language were assumed to be in that language. In Drupal 8, one of our most important goals was to make everything know its language as far and wide as possible.

Extensible special languages

Not everything can have a language even if it has a language property. Drupal 7 has one special language, Language neutral for these cases. This "language" is assigned to content which is not specifically in a language. People also used this to designate when the language was not known but some language needed to be assigned later. In Drupal 8, these two roles are separated into "Not applicable" and "Not specified" respectively. Also, these two special languages are stored as configuration with the other administrator configured languages (but are not shown on the configuration page to avoid confusion). Modules and distributions can add more special languages like these easily. These are locked (cannot be edited or removed), and when shown in a language list, they show after the manually configurable languages.

Drupal 8 multilingual tidbits 4: highly flexible detection options

Up to date as of October 16th, 2015.

Once/if you have multiple languages configured on your website, selecting from them for the page becomes an important question. The Drupal 8 language detection and selection options are located the same place they were in Drupal 7 but almost all options got some improvement.

Useful out of the box

Drupal 7 only had the default language detection method turned on, so even if you kept adding in more and more languages (and even if you enabled the language switcher block), the URLs did not work. You still needed to get here and configure the URL detection method. Now this is built-in, so adding languages and placing a selector block would in itself make multiple languages accessible.

Drupal 8 multilingual tidbits 3: simple language setup, optional English

Up to date as of October 16th, 2015.

As I've outlined in the previous post Drupal 8 core now has 4 core modules to deal with language support. This tidbit will be about the simple language setup features provided by Language module, which is the base for every other language feature.

Language module provides a simple language overview screen. You can reorder existing languages, remove languages (except the site default language, which on the screenshot is English) and add new languages. It is not anymore possible to have enabled and disabled languages on your site. This feature resulted in a confusing mess where some places and permission combinations allowed for the use of disabled languages and it was used as a means to stage certain new content. Just use proven content staging techniques (or unpublished posts) for new language content.

Drupal 8 multilingual tidbits 2: more core modules

Up to date as of October 16th, 2015.

Once you install Drupal 8 in a foreign language, you'll have Language and Interface translation modules enabled with the chosen language configured. Drupal 8 has more core modules handling language related features, yet less requirement for contributed modules to be installed for the most important tasks (on my last count, the 4 modules explained here cover functionality of 20+ modules from Drupal 7 and in much better ways).

Why have multiple modules when a multilingual site just needs all the features? Well, there are also foreign language (not multilingual) sites that we aim to support better and multilingual sites can be very different as well. Also, admittedly there are technological reasons to organize the modules by the features they provide.

In Drupal 8 multilingual is one of the groups of core modules, so you'll find these modules under the main core modules in a neat group.