Category Archives: localization

What’s new in localization in Xcode 9 and iOS 11 – The developer and translator guide

Xcode 9 brings a surprising amount of localization updates that make it easy for developers to internationalize their apps. These changes are also helpful for the translators and localization companies like us. We want you to implement these localization features in Xcode, so let me tell you about them!

Test your app in any language/region in Xcode 9

The Test scheme editor has a couple of excellent new localization features in Xcode 9. It used to be time-consuming to see what your app looks like in each  language. Now all you have to do is set the language and region in your automated Test.

Notice another nice addition: Show non-localized strings. This should help you find those hard-coded strings you forgot to internationalize in the first place!

Grab localized screenshots too

Tests can capture screenshots as well. There are two great reasons capturing screenshots with Tests for localization.

  1. Use the localized photos to send to translators. Did you know Babble-on has a whole developer portal just for testing your localized screenshots? It’s the BEST way to ensure your localized iOS or Mac app is ready to ship worldwide.
  2. Remember the App Store? Love it or hate it, users are much more attracted to localized screenshots of your app than seeing the English.

You can now write a single Test to capture screenshots in all your localized languages. That is a huge timesaver!


There are a couple of new pseudolocalization languages to try out in Xcode 9 as well, including better right-to-left support to test Arabic and Hebrew. The new right-to-left pseudolanguage actually writes your English “backwards” so you know how it feels:

Lorem ipsum    ->  muspi meroL

Plurals with Stringsdict gets full support in Xcode 9

In Xcode 9, export and import of localizations via XLIFF now supports stringsdict files. Next question: what’s a stringsdict? Stringsdict is a dictionary file that helps your app handle the many plural rules in foreign languages without a single line of code. You may not know this, but many languages have more than one plural form. Your sly code (if num >1) to add an ‘s’ to each word never actually worked for Russian… or Arabic… or dozens of other languages. Now you have an easy way to implement the right solution. Note that this can only work when you have a formatted string — a ‘%d’ type number of items for Xcode to parse.Stringsdict template new create in Xcode 9

Stringsdict has actually been the way to do plurals in iOS and Mac for a couple of years now, but it’s finally getting much-needed support in Xcode 9. You can view stringsdict files in a format that makes them much easier to create and to read. Xcode 9 also has templates so you can add plurals with a couple of clicks.

Stringsdict in Xcode 9More importantly, Xcode will export your plural lines in the XLIFF you give to translators. It even knows how many plural forms each language will need (though your translator should know this too, don’t you think?)

And in another “finally” moment, Xcode can view XLIFF files in a nice table format natively. Just double-click on your XLIFF to see. (Before you’d just get the raw XML, which was a mess to read or debug.)

Adaptive strings in Xcode 9

In that same Stringsdict format, Apple has allowed for another useful trick. They call it Adaptive strings. Essentially, this means you can have Xcode pick at runtime which text to use based on how much room is available in the UI. In English, that means you could have a long heading on an iPad screen like:

Worldwide Developer Conference 2017

but use a shorter one on iPhone:

WWDC 2017

It’s not based on screen size, as you might expect. It’s actually about the text length and what can fit. For internationalization that means you can add some abbreviations or alternate wording in languages that just don’t fit your UI (I’m looking at you, German). It’s done very similarly to plurals. You, or more likely your translator, adds in optional wording for each situation and the user’s device sees the correct text at runtime. Pretty cool, right? Of course there are other important ways to make sure there is room in your UI for internationalization: Auto Layout and variable constraints.

Under the radar localization changes in Xcode 9

One small but welcome change in Xcode 9 are warnings. Interface Builder now tells you if a view’s fixed constraint can cause localization problems, such as cutting off the text with the dreaded ellipses. If you can’t solve this on your own after battling with Auto Layout, talk to us and we’ll help you with shorter translations free of charge on anything we did for you!

According to the release notes, Xcode 9 now uses “\n” and “\t” instead of literal newlines and tabs in the strings files it creates. It does understand both the old and new forms, though. Xcode 9 can also export source files with encodings other than UTF-8. It used to fail in those situations, so that’s a good thing!

That’s the roundup! Be sure to check out these Xcode 9 localization resources for more information:

Why use Auto Layout in Xcode for your localized apps

Auto Layout saves the día

As a developer, you may have some legitimate reasons not to use Auto Layout. You may even think that Auto Layout is Apple’s version of punching you in the gut. You may think it’s only about varying screen sizes. Mostly, maybe. But if the myriad screen sizes of iOS devices haven’t persuaded you, maybe internationalization will be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Auto Layout is downright essential for app localization and internationalization as well.

Turning on Auto Layout in Xcode

Turning on Auto Layout in Xcode

The best defense of this localization unpredictability is Auto Layout. Let Xcode help flow the text as it should, because you can’t expect to anticipate what the Russian or Arabic text is going to do. Auto Layout also makes it possible to have one set of .storyboard and .xib files for all the languages of your app. That’s a plus, right?

Don’t just take it from me. This is what Apple writes about Auto layout and internationalization in its Auto Layout guide. As a localizer myself, I will tell you it’s all true (except the part about Japanese, which is often way longer than the English):

Internationalization has three main effects on layout. First, when you translate your user interface into a different language, the labels require a different amount of space. German, for example, typically requires considerably more space than English. Japanese frequently requires much less. Second, the format used to represent dates and numbers can change from region to region, even if the language does not change. …Third, changing the language can affect not just the size of the text, but the organization of the layout as well. Different languages use different layout directions. English, for example, uses a left-to-right layout direction, and Arabic and Hebrew use a right-to-left layout direction.

In other words, localizing into other languages is going to change the layout of the text in your app in ways you haven’t considered. And ways you probably shouldn’t have to care about — that’s what Auto Layout does for you!

What’s a localized app look like without Auto Layout? It’s sort of like Apple introducing a new mini-iPhone screen size and your app suddenly looks terrible on it.

Tips for using Auto Layout when localizing apps

  1. Remove all fixed-width constraints. If the German text is 30% longer, and you don’t provide room for it in your UI, this will at least let iOS change the font size to accommodate. Otherwise, your localized text will get cropped.
  2. Text fields should fit to contents. Select Editor > Size To Fit Content so that text fields and labels resize automatically for longer or shorter text.
  3. Pin views to adjacent views. This way, when one view resizes to fit your localized text, the other views will too. Otherwise, views may overlap in some languages
  4. No minimums or maximums. Allow each content view to adjust in size as the language changes.
  5. Use leading and trailing attributes instead of left and right. This tip will make right-to-left languages (Arabic, Hebrew) flow properly.

That’s it! With just a few tips you’re localized apps will look awesome.

What if my text is STILL too long?

I’m not going to lie. Auto Layout is not a panacea that solves all the world’s internationalization ills. But you’re working with Babble-on, the localization pros, right? When you’ve given as much room as you can in your UI and Auto Layout has tried its best, the only remaining option is to change the text itself. That’s why we offer a free QA service for our localization clients where you can upload your localized screenshots. Anything that doesn’t fit or doesn’t look right we’ll shorten or alter the text to make it work.

Localized screenshots upload at Babble-on

Check it out for yourself by entering out developer portal! (It’s free and has great tools for localization.)

Approve and pay for localization right from your phone


For developers that use Babble-on to update their app localizations often, we’ve always made it easy to keep track of a single monthly invoice. Now we’re making that process even simpler. Whenever you add new translations for us to do, your project manager will send you a quick link to look over the updated invoice and give your approval. And of course, for developers who pay on a project-basis, you can pay directly from your phone too, using any payment method you like.

Approve or pay invoices with a tap

That’s right. Invoice links no longer require you to log in. Just tap the link from your phone and click “Approve invoice”. Your project manager will begin work right away and you can continue about your day. Something not right? Tap “Request changes” and a handy email box will pop up for you to tell us which items you want to add or remove.

New payment method: e-Check

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 4.19.51 PM

In addition to credit cards, PayPal, and Bitcoin, we’ve also added payment by electronic check. That means you can pay instantly just by securely logging into your bank. The whole thing is handled by Stripe, the easiest and most secure payment provider around. The e-Check option works with the largest US banks (sorry, no foreign banks or credit unions at the moment).Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 4.20.18 PM

Export your invoice data

Finally, we’ve added the ability to download all of your invoice data. From the billing page, look for the Export as CSV option. This is a comma-separated-values (CSV) file, which opens in Excel or any spreadsheet app, as well as in a simple text editor. It’s helpful for those year-end calculations you want to make about how much money you are spending on localization. Just don’t forget to calculate how much money you made from international users! We’re quite sure you’ll be pleased with the results.

Is there something else we can do? Let us know how to make invoicing easier for you.

How to Track and Improve the Rank of Localized Keywords for Your iOS App

Guest post by: Hugh Kimura
Sensor Tower – Power Tools For App Store Optimization

Two closely related issues that we hear app publishers having is that they do not know how their app ranks for their localized keywords and they do not know how to improve their search visibility in other countries. Since app localization is such a large part of expanding the user base of an app, we think that this is a critical issue that needs to be addressed. After all, the more international users you have, the more money your app makes!

In this post, we are going to show you the fastest way to test out how your app ranks for all of your localized keywords, and how to improve your keyword rank in the countries you are targeting.

Track Your Rank In Other Countries

Let’s start by going through the process of using Sensor Tower to track how your app ranks for its localized keywords. As an example, we’ll use the popular game Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North on the Apple App Store in Italy. After you log into Sensor Tower, make sure that your app is selected at the top of the screen. If you need to add it, click on the green Add New App button.

Add new app for localized keywords

Then in the upper right corner of the screen, click on the flag to access the country drop down menu and select the country you want to track.


Now click on the Search Rankings Tool icon on the left side of the screen.


Start entering the localized keywords that you are currently using for your app. Here is a partial list of the keywords that Kingdoms of Camelot uses, and how it ranks for each of those localized keywords.


Tracking your localized keywords in this way makes it easy for you to see exactly which are helping and which are hurting your app. The iOS app is doing quite well with some of the keywords, ranking in the top 5 for translated keywords like medioevo and even untranslated ones like north. (Since north is part of the game’s title, it is an important keyword in every country.) But there are other keywords like geme that are not really doing the app much good.

When analyzing the localized keywords for your own app, the goal should be to rank in the top 10 for all of your international keywords. That is not always possible, but if you have a translated keyword like geme that is ranking in the hundreds, then you should take it out and find another to replace it in your next update.

As you can see, setting up keyword tracking is very easy and you can set up a different keyword list for every country’s App Store that you are in. Sensor Tower will remember all of your settings in your account.

Improve the Rank of Localized Keywords

Knowing how your app ranks for all of its keywords is great, but how do you improve your rank? There are three primary criteria for choosing keywords and this is how you prioritize them to pick the right keywords.

The first, and most important, is relevance. You want to be sure that your keywords are closely related to your app so users will be more likely to download it after a search in the App Store. This seems obvious, but we still see publishers prioritizing traffic over relevance. Judging keyword relevance is much more difficult in foreign languages, so talk with your translator to come up with the right options. Often, what works in one language does not in another. Try asking the translator which words he or she would use to search for and find an app like yours.

Sensor Tower offers additional tools to help you spy on the localized keywords that other apps are using, track your competitors, optimize your keyword list, and get keyword suggestions.


Consult your translator about keywords that you find with these tools if you have any doubts as to their relevance to your app.

Luckily, the other two criteria for choosing localized keywords are objective and you can find out that information by using our Keyword Research Tool. When you are logged into Sensor Tower, click on the Keyword Research Tool icon on the left.


Now enter any keyword that you want to research and you will be able to see the Difficulty and Traffic scores for that keyword. For this example, here is what the data looks like for castello, the localized Italian word for castle.


Sensor Tower gives each keyword a separate Difficulty Score on the iPad and the iPhone. The higher the score, the harder it is to rank in the top 10 for that keyword.

But there is a catch. Your ability to rank is also going to depend on the relative strength of your app. If your app has been around a while and has a thousands of downloads, then you are going to be able to rank higher for keywords that have a higher difficulty rank.

If you are just starting out, we recommend testing keywords with lower Difficulty Scores first. Once you get an idea of the average Difficulty Score you can rank in the top 10 for, then you can adjust your strategy accordingly. As you get more downloads, you can start to target higher difficulty keywords.

If you have an existing app, then look at the keywords that you are already ranking in the top 10 for. What is the average Difficulty Score of those keywords? When you choose new keywords, look for ones that have that score or lower.

Finally, the last factor you should look at is traffic. Relevance and Difficulty being equal, choose the keyword with a higher Traffic Score. Similar to the Difficulty Score, the higher the Traffic Score, the more traffic (or searches) a keyword is getting.

As long as your translated keyword is getting more than zero traffic, it is fair game. The only exception is if a zero-traffic keyword is part of an important keyword phrase. Here are the Traffic and Difficulty Scores of the international keywords we showed you for the Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North game.


Final Thoughts

If you remember the acronym RDT (Relevance, Difficulty, Traffic), it will help you prioritize the three main keyword characteristics. Again, ideally you want to rank in the top 10 for all of your keywords, even localized keywords. If you are ranking #402 for a keyword, it is wasting space in your keyword list. Throw it out and test another. However, if you are ranking #20, then that is still respectable and you probably want to keep that keyword until you can find a better replacement.

Although researching and tracking your keywords is a simple process, the key to success lies in continually tracking, testing and updating your keywords. International and localized keywords follow the same logic, but you will need the help of a reliable localization company to help you parse and recommend the right ones. You cannot just set your keywords once and forget about it.

We hope that this post has given you the information you need to track and rank well for your localized keywords. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments below.

About the Author: Hugh Kimura does Marketing for Sensor Tower, an easy-to-use online App Store Optimization tool that helps your app get more downloads by providing fast and accurate data to improve the visibility of your app on the App Store. For a free 14-day trial of the tools mentioned in this post, or to learn more, visit Sensor Tower.

Apple now allows 100 characters of keywords in all languages of the App Store

Bytes Build Character — Especially for Localized Keywords

Read my guest post on MobileDevHQ about Localizing your keywords to attract international users

Keyword localization

Good news for app developers who localize keywords and app descriptions in order to boost sales. Until recently, Apple had the keyword limit set at 100 bytes. This has always worked fine for the English-speaking audience. After all, each letter of the English alphabet is exactly 1 byte. But what about other languages and alphabets?

It turns out that the Spanish letter ñ, for example, is actually 2 bytes. And even those very compact-looking Korean and Chinese characters often weigh in at a hefty 4 bytes. The end result was that, until a recent change in iTunes Connect, your internationally localized keywords were actually far less than 100 characters. In fact, iTunes Connect would truncate the keywords, which often went unnoticed.

Today iTunes Connect will allow 100 characters (including spaces and commas) for any language. (As a side note, spaces are unnecessary, so you should remove them to add room for more keywords.)

Localizing Keywords for the App Store

When you do localize your keywords, you often find that foreign-language keywords are longer than their English cousins. French is estimated to be 30% longer than English (and much more wordy), and German has a tendency for very long individual words. If you present a translator with a full 100 characters of English keywords, you’ll find that, more often than not, the keyword localization returned to you will be over the 100-character limit.

Write your words in order of importance

There is a simple lesson here. When you send us your app description and keywords to be translated, make sure the keyword list in order of importance. Why? That way, if you have to leave out some of the localize keywords we send back, you’ll know exactly which ones you can drop without affecting your international keyword campaign. 

Add more keywords for Asian languages

The extra characters available to you for compact Asian languages like Korean and Chinese are also an often overlooked opportunity. Since you can include more keywords as space allows, we suggest you add additional keyword ideas to your list. As always, you may rely on some professional advice from translators, who usually come up with unique keywords that are local to their audience.

Are you ready to localize your keywords? Contact us. We’re not just a winsome group of translators who localize every language of the App Store, we’re very friendly too. 😉