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Just about this time last year, WPML began, so I thought it would be fun to tell a bit about how that first year went by, where we are and where we’re going.

It’s pretty easy to recall, because last year at the beginning of April, I was off with my family for Semana Santa to Mendoza. This year, we’re also taking off during this time, but much farther this time.

The way to Mendoza

Mendoza - Argentina's wine country

Mihai, WPML’s lead developer (and the only developer at that time) was working 14 hours a day getting WPML ready for the first public release and I was stalking WiFi spots to check what’s going on. Mihai didn’t send any photos. Sorry.

WPML’s origins

The idea was to build a plugin for WordPress that would allow it to run like a proper content management system. Our role model was Drupal’s i18n module. We wanted to make WPML as powerful as Drupal’s solution, but without a fraction of the complexity.

We work a lot with Drupal and have written a Drupal translation module, similar to WPML’s pro-translation, so we know Drupal pretty much inside and out.

We realized that for WordPress, things should just work. It’s great to have dozens of features, hooks and customization options, but without touching anything, the defaults should let it all work. Easier said than done.

Major milestones

The first really solid version for WPML was 1.2.1. By that time, basic functionality was working fully and (relatively) clean of bugs.

WPML’s next major breakthrough came around version 1.5. It got way too complex for manual testing and we started writing dozens of automated tests, using the wonderful WordPress testing framework. Having automated tests allows us to come out with frequent releases without burning weeks testing them.

The last major milestone was hit only recently with WPML 1.7. Now, WPML runs just fine on any WordPress theme, without having to edit themes to go multilingual.

We borrowed that idea from Drupal’s i18n as well. Essentially, WPML hooks to WordPress API calls and adjusts them to return contents per language. After this change, WPML’s daily downloads went from about 100 to 250.

Where next?

There are many small features that we’re working on, so I’ll just talk about the game-changing new features for WPML.

Translation for admin-texts

Many themes and plugins allow users to enter texts in admin pages. These texts are normally saved in the wp_options table and then displayed in different places in the site. For instance, a credit footer.

WPML will allow translating these texts very soon. It sounds like a trivial thing but try to translate these texts otherwise and you’ll see what we’re talking about.

Auto-download translations

We’ve got a little theme localization project going on. Right now, we’re translating some 15 themes for our friends from VivaThemes and WooThemes.

Next, we’re add an automatic translations-downloader to WPML. This means that if you’re running a site in a language other than English, WordPress will fetch the translations that it needs for itself.

You switch to Spanish and your site goes and gets the Spanish translations.

Yeah, you can guess where we got that idea from (hint: Drupal).

When WPML turns 2

What would you like to see in WPML for its next birthday?

There’s plenty time until March next year, so all suggestions are welcome!

5 Responses to “WPML Turns One”

  1. Congratulations on the great progress you’ve made over the last year. I’ve been amazed at how much you’ve done with WPML and I recommend it often as the best multi-lingual solution for WordPress.

    One thing I’d like to see in upcoming versions is the ability to easily add a language other than the existing choices in the admin.

    • Hey Doug,

      Editing WPML’s languages table is now working in our development version. We’ll have a Beta release on Friday and try to be ready with the next public version the following Monday.

      I’ll look forward to your feedback on it.

    • Now that WordPress 3 is going to be mighty similar to Drupal, it’s probably going to be the case. We’re going to see translation for WordPress’ menu system, custom post types and most other things Drupal i18n does right now.

  2. I didn’t realize WPML was only 1 year old! Congratulations! I just started using it about a few months ago, and am gearing up to use it across some other sites as well. It is a relatively simple, but powerful, solution. I look forward to all the updates mentioned.

    For suggestions of features I’d like to see, anything that makes the interface easy to use for the client who needs to update the site but doesn’t have a technical knowledge, especially on the string translations. For example, if there’s any way to weed out or hide any html code and just show text as the default (leaving the option available to the website managers who do need to see the code). Also, making the text larger for the texts to be translated in the string translation box … they are so tiny now, and it seems to give less importance to the secondary language(s).

    I would also like to see an option for a language nav bar generated automatically instead of a pull-down menu language selector. For example, I would like to have text links in the header area with all the languages available. That seems to be more the norm for sites with about 2-5 languages.