Microsoft goes native


7 Sep 2005

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Microsoft has increased the number of software packages available in Irish. Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook are now available through the national language, while Msn.ie search, the dedicated search engine for Ireland launched earlier this year, will be made available as gaeilgefrom the middle of this month.

Microsoft, in partnership with Irish language promotion agency Foras na Gaeilge, has been working on an Irish Language Interface Pack (LIP) since January 2004. The efforts of the two organisations have been supported by a wide number of community groups and native Irish language speakers who have helped with vocabulary selection and testing. The Irish language pack for Office 2003 can be downloaded from www.microsoft.com/ireland/gaeilge.

A key feature of language pack is an Irish spell checker. The Office LIP is also hot-swappable, meaning that users can switch between English and Irish without having to reboot their computers. The Irish version of Microsoft Windows XP has been available to download since June.

Microsoft and Foras na Gaeilge have undertaken the full localisation, development and translation of more than 600,000 terms across both products. Other partners involved in supporting the work were EGTeo, Dublin City University, eTeams and National University of Ireland Maynooth. The production of Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2003 in Irish is part of the worldwide Microsoft Local Language Programme.

The Irish-speaking community supported the work by contributing to the terms used in the Community Glossary, a key foundational reference for the remainder of the work. Under the auspices of the Terminology Committee in Foras na Gaeilge, the Community Glossary initiative afforded the Irish-speaking community the opportunity to make comments or contributions on the use of technical terminology. Microsoft will also release the full glossary of Irish terms generated during the localisation process. They will be available to download from www.microsoft.com/ireland/gaeilge from mid-September 2005.

LIPs enable users to install a local language version as a ‘skin’ on top of an existing installation of Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2003 Standard Edition. The LIPs provide users with an experience that translates approximately 85pc of user elements, enhancing the Windows experience for users who do not work in one of the languages in which Windows is currently available.

MSN Search will allow users to select a number of options including the ability to search sites in Irish and from Ireland only. This is available at http://search.msn.ie when customers set their language preference to Irish.

Jonny Chambers, a senior technical specialist at Microsoft Ireland, commented: “The primary aim of the programme is to increase access to technology to all by enabling people to work through their native language

“We anticipate that the LIP will be a particularly valuable tool for schools, and not just Irish speaking schools, who can now use the technology to teach through Irish. Under the Official Languages Act, 2003, the Government made a commitment to ensure better availability and higher standards of public services through Irish.”

Breandán Mac Craith, communications officer with Foras na Gaeilge, said the development of key tools such as Microsoft Office in Irish was extremely important if use of the Irish language was to increase.

The idea to produce Irish LIPs originated in Microsoft’s European Product Development Centre in Sandyford where Irish employees drive the development of more than 100 Microsoft products into 27 languages as part of their daily work. Employees initially volunteered their time and expertise to do the localisation work that would enable versions of the product to be available in Irish. Microsoft subsequently invested considerable employee time from a number of different operations, in Ireland and Seattle, on developing the LIP, testing and localisation to support this work over the past 12 months. Foras na Gaeilge gave employee resources and considerable time on the translation of the technical terms.

By Brian Skelly