Internationalizing ASP.NET Web Forms

I was in Rockville last week, acting as the BORG (Back Of the Room Guy) for another instructor. About half the students were attending remotely, using Learning Tree’s AnyWare system – and one of them was joining us all the way from Sweden, which meant he had a different keyboard layout. Fortunately, that was easily fixed… but it got me thinking about the issue of internationalization.

I go backwards and forwards between the US and UK and as a result I’m very conscious of the differences  between British and American English. One of the big issues is keeping straight whether 1/6/2013 represents Jan 6 (US) to 1 June (UK). It’s all too easy to use the wrong one in the wrong country – but so long as I remember which country I’m in, I normally manage okay.

But what about the web? If a user enters 1/6/2013 – what date do they mean? If the web page shows the date 1/6/2013, what does the user think it means?

The answer, of course, is that we can’t know – the user could be anywhere any speak any language. So we need to internationalize our applications. Fortunately, ASP.NET makes this very easy to do.

Here is a standard contact email form. Currently, it’s English only:

And here is the underlying markup. It’s a FormView control using Model Binding:

At the moment, everything is hard-coded. We want all the text (Name, From etc.) to change depending upon the browser’s language settings. For this we need a resource file. Fortunately, Visual Studio will create it for us. Just make sure you have focus on the page in question and go to TOOLS | Generate Local Resource. (If you’re using VS 2012 and you can’t see the option, try switching between design and source views and clicking in the page: it can be a bit temperamental).

This generates a resource file with the naming convention [FormName].aspx.resx inside the App_LocalResources folder (which will be created if it does not already exist). Our page is Contact.aspx, so the file is Contact.aspx.resx:

This is the generated resource file, which as you can see has all of our original text.

This resource file is then mapped to our controls through markup. Note the meta:resourcekey attributes that have been generated by the designer.

So far so good – but we still haven’t added any internationalization. What we need to do now is to copy our resource file and give it a conventional name that includes the language and country codes. I’m going to create a French version of my form, so I need to call it Contact.aspx.fr-FR.resx or if I wanted to use one version for all French speakers regardless of location, Contact.aspx.fr.resx

And then I need to create all the French versions of the strings. I don’t speak French, so this is part googling, part guess-work: my apologies to any actual French speakers….

Now if the user arrives at the site with French settings, they automatically get the following:

As you can see, it’s not at all difficult to internationalize your web applications. You can also use global resources, and you can of course internationalize MVC apps as well, and you probably want to give the user the option to change the language… and I may just come back to those topics in another post.

Kevin Rattan

For other related information, check out this course from Learning Tree:

Building ASP.NET Web Applications: Hands-On

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