Joomla 3.7, which is about to be releases early 2017 contains a new feature called Multilingual Associations, allowing for easy side-by-side translations. This will make Joomla 3.7 the best update in years, together with the addition of Custom Fields for our articles and the new Router for improved URL’s (allowing you to remove the numbers in your Joomla article’s URL’s).
Joomla has been a very good candidate for building multilingual websites with the core features, but it could sometimes be bit tedious to set it up initially. However if you now install a fresh Joomla website, it will already ask you if you want to install any more languages than the default English one. If you just follow the instructions during the installation, all your languages will be set up automatically, including menu’s for each language and the publishing of the necessary plugins and modules (this might have been the case before 3.7 already, not sure myself). All this already reduces set-up errors in a big way. This is good news, because errors in your set-up can greatly affect your site and also play a negative role for your SEO. But now the really fancy stuff:
The Multilingual Association manager
Before 3.7 you had to manually attach the articles for each language to the corresponding translated article, which could be a bit tedious. Now however, this is greatly automated. Let me show you how it works.
First, make sure to install a 3.7 site (or the currently available Alpha release). If you follow the instructions to install a second or third language, the translations will already be set-up, including 2 dummy articles for you to get standard: one in English and one in Dutch as in my example. This is all still standard. But now go to the new core component called Multilingual Associations (under the Components menu-item). Initially this is a screen without any records.
First you need to set an option for the Item Type. Choose Article here (it works the same for Menu’s, Categories, Contacts or any other component supporting the new feature). Then select a Language. Your source language is most logical, but you can also do it the other way. In my case I selected English. Now you see 2 records:
The first article is a newly created English article (not translated yet) and the second one is the dummy article for which a translation already exists. Note that the second one has a grey label for Associatons, indicating that an associated translation is already in place. My new article has an orange label, indicating it still needs to be translated. Note that you can now take 2 actions: you can click on the title of the article and you will have to choose your target language to proceed. However, if you click directly on the orange label, your screen is already pre-filled partly for the selected language (if you have more languages, you will have more language labels). Now the fun starts:
You see: 2 translation screens, sitting nicely side-by-side, now isn’t that nice!
And the best part is: there is this subtle button there, called Copy Reference to Target, which allows you to copy all content (including metatags and images) to the new translated article. This allows you to start off with this text and adapt as needed. For images, adaptation is often not needed and this makes the copy-feature very handy! You may have used this kind of feature before in Joomla translation extensions like Falang, Joomfish or Neno and now you can simply do so in Joomla.
Once ready, you should save your changes. Note that there now are 2 buttons to save things. For new translations you will click the Save Target button, but often you may notice typo’s or errors in the original English article as well. Within the same screen, you can save those to. To save these, you will have to click the Save Reference button.
Access directly from new articles
Before being able to use the Association manager, you will still have to create the initial source article in the ‘normal’ way. However, once having done so, there is also a shortcut to create new associations / translations. Within the new article, go to the Associations tab. You can still manage associations as before, but there is a new option now:
Clicking on the Create button simply creates a new article right away in your second language. It opens in a modal pop-up and after creating it, you can immediately set it as the associated article.
You see there are 2 ways to build your translations now. It depends on your preferences which workflow you prefer.
What about 3rd-party Multilanguage extensions now?
This will for sure have an impact on existing translation plugins and extensions. In many cases, you may not need them anymore, since managing them in the core has been made so easy. It could however still be that your component does not yet support the new feature or that the current features are still not good enough. For those cases, you may still need extensions like Falang or especially Neno, which is an extremely strong translation solution.
So, have fun with Joomla 3.7. I’m sure you will like it!