Information on translating Guide to other languages

Much of the interest in Guide has long come from outside the United States and English-speaking nations. Naturally, having support for languages other than English seemed like a good idea, and Guide 6.0 and later versions have made this especially easy to do.

Guide can currently switch to ten languages other than English: German, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Czech, and Hungarian. These translations vary a bit in completeness. For example, the German and Italian translations include the menus and help/glossary systems; no English appears in the program. In some other languages, menus and dialog boxes are translated, but other parts are not.

But there is still some interest in other languages, such as Portuguese, Hebrew, and some Northern European languages. So Guide is presently arranged to make it easy to add up to eight more languages. At present, these are specified to be Arabic, Hungarian, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Danish, Portuguese, and Gaelic. But these assignments can be easily changed if some other language is desired.

If you're interested in attempting such a translation, please let me know. I may be able to put you in contact with others who may have already translated parts of the files; I will also be extremely happy to post your results for the use of others using that language. As with any other part of Guide, please let me know what problems you find. Adding other languages should be quite easy now; with each new language, some bugs are found and fixed, and the process becomes more solid. But you may find something I did not anticipate.

The key file in a translation is STRINGS.DAT; it contains the English text for all menus, dialog boxes, and so forth used in Guide (DOS and Windows). The German-language version of this file is DEUTSCH.DAT. Then a switch was made to changing the extension, leading to STRINGS.FRA (French), STRINGS.ITA (Italian), and so on. Finally, a switch was made to just using a single letter.

For future languages, one need only name the translated file STRINGS.DAx, where 'x' is a letter depending on the language, as follows:

Japanese       a (done)
Dutch          b (done)
Russian        c (done)
German         d (*  DEUTSCH.DAT)
English        e (*  STRINGS.DAT)
French         f (*  STRINGS.FRA)
Italian        i (*  STRINGS.ITA)
Czech          j (done)
Chinese        k (done)
Arabic         l
Hungarian      m (done)
Norwegian      n
Swedish        o
Finnish        p
Danish         q
Portuguese     r
Spanish        s (*  STRINGS.ESP)
Gaelic         t
Polish         u
(undecided)    v
(undecided)    w
(undecided)    x
(undecided)    y
(undecided)    z

Thus, for example, the Finnish-language text would be placed in STRINGS.DAP. Once that file became available, Guide would automatically add a "Finnish" option to the Languages menu.

The five (*) items are partial exceptions, made before the consistent single-letter system was adopted. For example, Italian text logically ought to be in STRINGS.DAI. Instead, it's in STRINGS.ITA. Their 'single letters' are still used elsewhere, though, as will be seen below. Other languages that have at least had the STRINGS file translated are also marked.

As you might expect, it is by no means necessary to translate the entire file; most translators start with the text in the major menus, or sometimes phrases they find particularly annoying in English. If you examine, for example, STRINGS.DAC (the Russian-language version), you will see that not all text has been translated yet. From time to time, people send in updated language files, and the update files are posted on the site.

STRINGS.DAT contains almost all the text Guide shows. Translate it, and most users of your language will be very happy indeed. If you wish, though, you can translate all but a few phrases, as described below.

Some other small files that can be changed

All the files required are in plain ASCII text. You can use any desired text editor to view and (when needed) change them. You can change them one at a time; if Guide can't find, for example, the Russian-language version of a file, it will fall back on the English version.

You don't have to change these right away. But after STRINGS.DAT is translated, you'll notice that there is still some text in English. The following files explain where this text is and how to change it. If you don't change them, Guide will just continue to use the English-language data. The most important files are listed first.

You'll notice that usually, the translated files will have a nearly identical file name, but with one letter changed, using the table given above. For example, the Finnish-language version of ECANNED.DAT would be PCANNED.DAT.


These files contain English-language text used for providing information from datasets on the CD-ROM.


The file SWAPNAME.DAT is somewhat different; it gives the text in each language for overlay names such as "Constellation lines" and "Palomar survey plates", and of mark names such as "Initial position", "Factory defaults", and "Jul 91 eclipse as seen from Mexico".

Each overlay or mark file is given (at present) 13 lines. The top line reads "0edfsibackj"; this indicates that, for each item, versions are given in English, German (d="Deutsch"), French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Japanese, Russian, Chinese, and Czech. You could turn this top line to, say, "edfsibackjpl", meaning that Finnish and Arabic were also available.

Again, if entries are left blank, Guide defaults to using the English-language variant.


When you use the "Add a Comet" utility, Guide shows the elements accompanied by a paragraph or two of "help" data for each line, describing what the "mean anomaly" or "magnitude slope parameter" is. For the English-language version, this is in ADDCOMET.DAT. The German-language version is in DDDCOMET.DAT; the French-language version is in FDDCOMET.DAT.

For new languages, it is the last letter of ADDCOMET.DAT that should be changed; for example, the Finnish version would be ADDCOMET.DAP.


The file VAR_TYPE.DAT contains the English text describing various types of variable stars, such as "Eclipsing binary" or "Catastrophic variable of U Gem type". The German version of this file is DEU_TYPE.DAT; the French, FRA_TYPE.DAT; the Italian, ITA_TYPE.DAT; and the Spanish, ESP_TYPE.DAT (these are in the VARIABLE directory of the Guide CDs.) Future languages would change the last letter; for example, the Finnish-language version would be VAR_TYPE.DAP.

GAL_NAME.NAM and other .NAM ("common name") files

Guide uses a series of .NAM files to provide lists of common galaxy names (GAL_NAME.NAM), common nebula names (NEBULA.NAM), constellations (CONSTELL.NAM), and so forth. German-language versions of these files should have the same names, but with a .NAD extension. The French-language versions use a .NAF extension; Italian, .NAI; Spanish, .NAS. Future languages continue the practice of changing the last letter; for example, the Finnish-language version of the constellation name file would be called CONSTELL.NAP.

Don't translate MARKS.NAM and OVERLAYS.NAM, though. These are already handled by SWAPNAME.DAT.


(7 Jan 1999) "Normally", when you click on the Toolbar option in the Settings menu, Guide provides a list of possible toolbar entries, in English. It is now possible to translate that list, which appears in TOOLBAR.DAT.

The Italian-language version is in ITOOLBAR.DAT, the French version in FTOOLBAR.DAT, and so forth. As usual, if the file doesn't exist, Guide just sticks to the use of English from TOOLBAR.DAT.

Note that the only use made of these additional files is for providing the text in other languages. TOOLBAR.DAT contains a column of '#' and space characters to indicate which buttons are in use; a column of action code numbers", used to determine what action is taken when a button is clicked; and the name of the bitmap used for a given button. This data always comes from TOOLBAR.DAT. (If it did not, then you could switch to Italian, toggle some toolbar buttons, then switch back to English, and lose those changes.)

Also, the translated text will eventually be used to provide 'fly-by hints'. If you leave the cursor over a toolbar button for a second or so, a small yellow box will appear to tell you the meaning of the button. I consider this to be pretty important, since it is nearly impossible to guess the meaning of so many of the buttons!


(12 Jan 1999) This file contains the text used for calendar month names, days of the week, and similar calendar-related text, in assorted languages. It was added because of a new feature: Guide's "Quick Info" now shows the current date in various calendrical systems, such as the Hebrew and Islamic calendars. In this case, one file contains the text for every language (a bit like SWAPNAME.DAT). You do have the option of translating bits and pieces; for example, the names of the week are currently in French, English, German, and Italian, but the names of the months of the Hebrew calendar are in English only. (And since they are really "transliterations" of the Hebrew text, it is unlikely that there will be much effort to "translate" them into other languages.)

"Note" (.NOT) files

Guide uses a series of .NOT files to provide "notes" on selected objects, and to allow users to add their own notes for an object. For example, NGC.NOT provides extra data on NGC objects. (At the moment, all it lists is some data on what supernovae were found in NGC galaxies. But it can be extended by anyone with a text editor.)

A German-language version of NGC.NOT would be named DNGC.NOT; a French- language version, FNGC.NOT; Italian, INGC.NOT; Spanish, SNGC.NOT. Similar letters would be added to the start for any other .NOT file one would want to translate. For example, the Finnish-language version of PLANETS.NOT would be PPLANETS.NOT.

Text-definition (.TDF) files

The .TDF files can be used to show almost any ASCII data set in Guide, and to click on objects in those data sets to get information about them. There are a few examples provided on the Guide CD-ROM, as well as on this site.

The German-language version of a .TDF file would have the same name, and the extension .DDF. The French-language version would have the extension .FDF; Italian, .IDF; Spanish, .SDF; and so on.


The FIND_ORB orbit determination software shows text from the file EFINDORB.DAT. The French-language version would be FFINDORB.DAT; Italian, IFINDORB.DAT; Spanish, SFINDORB.DAT; and so forth. FIND_ORB is really a tiny "demonstration" program, distributed as copyrighted freeware; only a small amount of text needs to be translated.

Some LARGE files that can be changed

The ultimate in translation requires converting the Help system (which includes the glossary) and the users manual. All the files described so far total about 40 KBytes of data. But the English-language help file, HELP.TXT, is about 450 KBytes. The entire users manual is about 140 KBytes. Obviously, translating these would not be an easy job!

The German-language version of HELP.TXT is DHELP.TXT, and the Italian-language version is IHELP.TXT. (These are already on the Guide CD-ROM.) For other languages, the same pattern applies; for example, the Finnish version would be PHELP.TXT, and so on. If such a file is in the Guide directory, then Guide will show help and glossary information from them when you have toggled to those languages.

Notes for translators: From time to time, information that is mostly of interest only to current translators will be posted here. Here are some comments concerning the latest (12 Sep 1999) version:

  • It is unusual for me to change existing text in STRINGS.DAT. But I did so, because of the new way that overlays work. In the English-language version, lines 817 and 818 changed from
  • Create &new overlay
    &Delete Overlay


    (Create new overlay)
    Delete Overlay

    In addition, the following lines were added at the end:

    Edit Overlay
    Normal Mode
    inches[] For the focal length in the CCD Dialog
    Maximum magnitude:[] For eclipses

    The first two are also used for the new overlay editing. When you edit an overlay, the dialog box you get allows you to select "Add Circles", "Add Lines", and "Add Text", but there is also a "Normal Mode" button that lets you use the mouse "normally" (to click on objects, zoom and pan, and measure distances.)

    The next two are used in the CCD Frame dialog. This now shows the focal length of "inches" or "mm", depending on what system of units you chose in the Format dialog under Settings.

    Masaki Kouda pointed out that the text on line 30, "Maximum magnitude:", is used both as a prompt for "Make a List of Stars" and appears when you right-click for information on a solar eclipse chart. In Japanese, it is best to distinguish between a maximum star magnitude and a maximum eclipse magnitude. So line 30 is used for the first case, and line 1390 for the second case.

    For all the STRINGS files, I have copied line 30 to line 1290. So if your language does not make this distinction, you will be all set.

  • A lot of text has been added to EHELPEXT.DAT. Each change (or addition) is marked with the line:
  • ; 5 Sep 1999:

    followed with a brief comment as to why the change was made.

    Here are comments for the 4 September 1999 version:

  • The 'help extension file' EHELPEXT.DAT has grown a lot with this new version.
  • As you'll see, a few lines of text have been added to the end of STRINGS.DAT for the new features (mostly names of the new outer planet satellites).
  • So far, Charon has been translated into French only. (The English text is in CSTRINGS.DAT; the French version is CSTRINGF.DAT.) Some new text has been added to CSTRINGS.DAT to support the changes to Charon's Settings menu.
  • There is a new, "extra" note file for planets, PLANETS.NO1. As you might expect, the Italian version is IPLANETS.NO1, and so on. Right now, it has some data about the new outer satellites. Each entry is basically a "repeat" with different numbers. If you wish, just send me a version with the first case (Himalia) translated, and the table near the bottom translated. I can then translate the rest automatically (except for some of the odd comments about Sycorax and Phoebe and such, of course.)
  • The changes in TOOLBAR.DAT are not as worrisome as you may think. If you add corresponding lines to (for example) ITOOLBAR.DAT, Guide will add them in when you run in that language. You do not have to worry about the order of lines, or translate all of them. If Guide cannot find an entry in your language, it will stick to the English version.