In this post, Josh Stickler and Kate Kelly provide an overview of what's new and improved with Variations in SharePoint 2013, with an emphasis on infrastructural improvements most interesting to IT Admins.
Variations is a SharePoint feature that enables users to create, manage, and translate locale-specific content for Internet and intranet Publishing sites. We first introduced Variations in SharePoint 2007. Since then, we've had the opportunity to learn how customers use the feature and better understand customer scenarios, pain points, and aspirations when it comes to managing content in multiple languages.
Here's a quick overview of what we'll cover in this post:
We're excited to introduce default support for exporting and importing Variations content for translation. SharePoint 2013 includes a Machine Translation Service that connects SharePoint to Microsoft Translator. You can also export SharePoint content as a package that you or a third-party translation vendor can use for human translation.
Machine translation provides a valuable first step to localizing website content, making your content accessible to users speaking other languages. Machine translation is available as an additional step, after you publish and approve source-language content and sync that content to a locale-specific site. You can then send pages, list items, and documents to Microsoft Translator, the same service you may be familiar with from Office client applications. Users around the world trust Microsoft Translator to translate millions of documents from or to 39 supported languages every day, in a way that is secure and preserves rich text formatting.
Many customers work with localization vendors to get their content professionally translated. In the past, we emphasized in-browser translation; but, localization vendors often prefer using their own tools and processes outside of SharePoint. SharePoint 2013 makes it easier to send content to localizers by exporting an XML Localization Interchange File Format (XLIFF) file. XLIFF is an Oasis open standard that is gaining popularity in the localization industry.
Translation is available only when using the Variations feature. Variations is different from our Multilingual User Interface (MUI) feature. Variations helps you manage user-generated content in multiple languages for both Internet and intranet Publishing sites. MUI switches the language of the SharePoint user interface elements (like the ribbon and Site Settings links) based on a user's browser language.
Suppose you've been using Variations for a while and are ready to expand into a new market. Adding a language is now much faster. The operation runs in the timer service just like in SharePoint 2010, but instead of running as one large timer job, we've split the operation into a bunch of smaller work items. This way, if you encounter and resolve an error, you can pick up where you left off instead of having to delete any partially-created sites and start over.
You can also create more variation labels than ever before. Variation labels represent a locale-specific set of sites, lists, and navigation. We support creating up to 209 variation labels on-premises, one for each locale supported by SharePoint. Also, improvements to performance, scalability, reliability, and monitoring in SharePoint 2013 have enabled us to make Variations available to customers running Office 365. Office 365 now supports a maximum of 50 variation labels.
In SharePoint 2013 the Variations feature is also much more inclusive about what gets translated, and it offers greater flexibility in terms of when and how variants reach target locales. In SharePoint 2010, the only way to propagate a resource such as a document or image from a source library to a target library is to publish a source page that refers to that resource. Even if the source page is already published and has not changed, you have to publish a new version of the page to propagate changes to a related resource. In SharePoint 2013, lists and libraries can sync independently from pages. You can also sync and translate managed navigation terms to localize navigation and friendly URLs.
Interviewing customers about their translation management requirements, pain points, and aspirations reinforced a key lesson: When it comes to global content strategy, one size does not fit all. That's why we've designed Variations to accommodate diverse requirements among locales. Two general patterns emerged from our research: "centralized" and "distributed" control.
"Centralized" control organizations typically have a large core set of content that applies to all locales. While content owners in locales can create locale-specific content, owners must translate new and updated core content more often than not.
"Distributed" control organizations give locale content owners more discretion over how and when to incorporate source content changes into their sites. New source content may apply only to the source locale, or to a subset of target locales. For example, Contoso Electronics might offer a new product only in the United States and Mexico, but not Canada. When source content is updated, locale content owners can get an email notification and "opt in" to receiving and translating the changes.
Likely, one or both of these types of organizations sound familiar to you. You can choose a different approach for different locales and you can switch the approach at any time.
Thanks for reading! We'll cover more end-user improvements for Variations in our next post.
Josh Stickler is a Program Manager on the SharePoint Enterprise Content Management team, responsible for the Variations feature in SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013. Kate Kelly is a Program Manager on the Office Globalization Experience Platform Team, responsible for integrating Translation Services into SharePoint