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ENLASO Announces Release 5 of Okapi Open Source Framework
Posted by Donald A. DePalma on February 3, 2006  in the following blogs: Technology, Translation and Localization
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What drove ENLASO to develop the Okapi specification was the commonality of localization tasks across projects and companies. Developers the world over write the same small utilities to perform specific tasks. A formal framework would let the developer re-use components he already built. Open-sourcing the framework would let him share his oeuvre as well, offering up things he wrote and getting the benefit of components created by people who conquered the same programming demons that he now faces. Doing so in a well-defined object model means that the components themselves can communicate with each other, gaining more power in their networked numbers.

To get the specification off the ground, ENLASO primed the pump by porting its own localization tools to Okapi and making them freely downloadable from the company's website (enviably translate.com). Last October ENLASO released its first set of components including filters; utilities for text extraction, merging, and re-writing; and a command line tool. This week's announcement adds a script filter, a new utility launcher, and improved methods to automatically merge XLIFF-translated documents back into their original format.

Now for the true test of any specification -- market acceptance. We asked Yves Savourel, the company's chief technologist, whether anyone besides ENLASO had written Okapi components. With true candor he told us that no one outside the framework project had developed anything yet, but "we do have some non-ENLASO help now. And not having implementations 'in the wild' has the positive aspect that the interface specifications have time to mature as we develop more filters and utilities that touch on different sets of issues."

If broadly accepted and used, Okapi could increase the interoperability of localization tools, a critical element in accelerating the promise of global information management. However, Okapi enters a market not known for its embrace of open source. Alpnet (bought by SDL earlier this decade) "opened" its translation memory solution because its largest customer, Sun Microsystems, contractually required it to do so. But the terms that Alpnet sought were unreasonable -- upfront buy-in fees, support fees, limited control over the source, limited usage rights, etc. And when Lionbridge acquired Foreign Desk as part of its acquisition of International Communications, it open-sourced the software -- and that was the last that anyone heard of it.

By hosting Okapi at SourceForge.net, being so open with its communication both in press releases and within associations such as GALA, and building on open standards and objects, ENLASO stands a better chance than its open-source language industry predecessors of succeeding. But it does need developers outside ENLASO to contribute components to create a viable ecosystem for developing and sharing commonly used and even innovative localization functions.


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Keywords: Localization, Terminology management, Translation, Translation management systems, Translation technologies

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