interface

Improve Drupal interface text step by step

Drupal 6 typoOur localization tools and approach help us a lot in making the Drupal interface better, but we did not make use of these great features so far. I hope to involve you in making Drupal 6 even better with two simple ideas, which only require very simple tools, so anyone can contribute.

A few days ago, a simple idea came to me, to export all the Drupal interface texts as one big text file and get people spell check and correct things in it, in the hopes that we can turn the fixes into patches. While there are tools for spell-checking Gettext files (the format we use for translations), admittedly, spell checking a simple text file can be easily done in most office suites, simple command line programs, and the fixes are easy to integrate into Drupal. Thankfully a few guys jumped on the idea, and the first batch of trivial typo fixes are now in Drupal 6, leaving space for debates on spelling and wording of some remaining parts.

The logical next step is to improve the wording of Drupal interface elements. Sometimes a shorter explanation would do better, because it would actually be more welcoming for readers, and at the same time in some places, the existing explanations leave some to be desired. We can much more easily spot these problem areas, when browsing around, so if we would have a tool to "touch up" interface text while browsing around, it would help our work. It turns out that what helps people localize sites, is also a time saver here. See how Localization client is useful for improving the English interface itself:

  • Install Drupal 6 normally, in English.
  • Enable locale module, add your custom English language. Go to Administer - Site configuration - Languages - Add language - Custom language. Add "en-my" with "My English" as native and English name. Provide "en-my" as path prefix. Back on the language listing page, choose this language as your default.
  • Download Localization client for Drupal 6 and enable as usual.
  • Now for every user with proper permission (including user 1), a tool will appear on the bottom of the page. This allows you to modify any text displayed on the page, effectively fixing the interface for yourself.

Of course the fun does not stop in making all these yourself. To save you time and effort when you update your site later and some string might get modified to serve users better, it is best to share results with the community. You can easily export "My English" on the Locale module export page: Administer - Site building - Translate interface - Export. From here, you get a Gettext PO file with all empty translations and the touch up you provided.

Now everything is left before submitting this in the Drupal issue queue, is to focus this file on the actual fixes. Using the command line msgattrib helper enables you to do just that: msgattrib "en-my.po" --translated > "Drupal-fixes.po". Unfortunately this part is not as easy as clicking around (for people without gettext tools on their machines), but let me ensure you if this is the only part stopping you from submitting considerable fixes for Drupal 6, let me know and I'll help you out or get someone to help you.

Of course because all the above is pretty much automatable and could even live on a central server, an enterprising folk could easily go and set up a temporary site for interface touch-up collaboration. At the end, the result of the group effort can be submitted. Although these suggestions will be made into patches at some point, this is again a good way to help out without knowing anything about writing Drupal patches.