Saturday, October 01, 2005

Will they ever learn ?

I have this last week been involved in deploying a InfoPath+SharePoint (WSS) solution developed by my colleagues Mads Nissen and Rolf Inge Kirkeng. Things have gone quite well, except for annoyances caused by the language versions of WSS being different. That is, the WSS version used to develop and host the InfoPath forms in a form library, is the English version, while this customer had the Norwegian version.

I had saved the WSS team-site, including the form libraries, as a template (1033), and needed to convert it into language code 1044. Normally, you can rename the .STP file into .CAB, extract the files, perform a 'edit-replace all' on the LCID instances, build a new .CAB file, and finally rename the file to .STP. Unfortunately, this did not work this time, so I had to set up the WSS team-site manually, and then publish the InfoPath forms to the site, which automatically creates the form libraries with all the applicable metadata columns from the schema. End of my involvement.

Today, Rolf Inge finshed the deployment of the InfoPath solution, and ran into some problems with the scripts of the forms. The forms use several secondary data connections to retrieve pick list data, etc. from SharePoint lists. The problem turned out to be the naming of the standard columns of a form library. E.g. the forms expected 'Title', but in the Norwegian version this column has the name 'Tittel'. Such a low level of abstraction (internal name = display name) makes a solution really hard to standardize and deploy.

Has Microsoft not learned anything from the infamous experiences with localized WordBasic and Office VBA in the late 1990s ? It was a nightmare to deploy solutions (templates and macros), as each customer would most likely have a different object model "language", language literally meaning a national language. "ActiveWindow" would be "AktivtVindu" in the Norwegian Office versions. Even within a company you most likely would find several different installations of Office. I worked a lot for Det Norske Veritas that has offices around the world, and it was impossible to make a single, standard set of Office templates. Microsoft did in fact realize that this was not very productive, and these days the Office object model is all English.

I wish Microsoft soon would make every product use English internal names for programming, and separate, localized display names for the user interface. The same goes for the SharePoint central admin tools; please let us have the option to run e.g. the English admin tools, even on a Norwegian installation. The localized admin tools makes it hard to move between customers and quickly find the stuff you need to configure SharePoint. The strange terms sometimes used in the translations does not make it any easier.

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