Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ideas for Improving Locale Management in Firefox

Mozilla Firefox Localization project spans 90+ languages across the planet. If you haven't used Firefox in a different language, try downloading a language pack and change Firefox user interface language by editing general.useragent.locale preference setting using about:config. Captian Caveman created an easy to use Quick Locale Switcher Firefox addon for this purpose.

In this post, I'll explore some ideas to improve the locale management experience inside Firefox. The idea adds unified search, installation and language switching capabilities to Firefox Language panel. You will find Firefox Language panel under Tools > Addons menu. Currently the language panel on Firefox Nightly build looks like this.

Firefox Languages panel

Firefox Language Panel Mockup

The mockup below describes searching, installing and switching locales workflow. This is similar to existing Firefox Add-ons workflow.

Firefox Language Switching Workflow

  • Enable Firefox Language Tab:Make Tools > Languages visible at all times. Currently Firefox hides this dialog when no language packs are installed.
  • Switch Firefox Default Language: Default Language Switch button "Default Language is 'English (US)', Do you want to change the language of Firefox?"
  • Search Languages: Modify search box to limit search to language packs on
  • Language Management: Provide Switch Locale toggle button next to each installed language pack.
  • Switch Language for this session only:Allow users to switch locale for this session only.
  • Get New Language: List download-able Locale packs on the main screen.

Please share your thoughts, suggestion and criticism using the comment form below.

If you are a Firefox hacker looking for something new to hack on, this is your lucky day! .


  1. How about moving the dictionaries and respective settings to this page too?

    1. Thanks, That is a good idea.

    2. Look into swapping the user's personal dictionary for each language, too.
      I use four languages with 'Quick Locale Switcher', but adding a word to the dictionary goes into a common file.

    3. Jesper KristensenMay 31, 2012 at 12:11 AM

      Dictionaries have a separate tab in the addons manager since Firefox 10 (and they are restartless too), but each addon, which contains dictionaries, must be updated to identify itself as a dictionary addon to make that happen. Maybe it would make sense to merge the dictionaries tab with the language pack tab.

  2. Ideas for this have been around for a long time and a bug has been sitting around for years as well but this was seen as not being a target for Firefox, possibly even to be unwanted, which I never understood but maybe you have some success with that!

    1. Thank you Robert, I certainly hope we could get some action on this. If you have a moment please do point me to these old bug(s).

    2. It is bug 377881 I believe.

  3. Well, I like the mockup very much, and the dictionaries idea is a good one, too.

  4. "Search Languages: Modify search box to limit search to language packs on"
    See , and

    "Switch Language for this session only:Allow users to switch locale for this session only."
    Instant apply would be nice, but if I remember correct, reloadChrome causes Firefox to forget the open tabs. For launching Firefox with a special locale, you can use the -UIlocale command line option. The restart service throws most command line parameters away, see

    Of course the application has to download the language pack updates when it downloads a software update.

    And Windows 8 will support language switching in all versions, it would be nice if Mozilla's products would observe that system setting and could follow the given behavior.

    1. Thank you for the bug information, it really helps.

    2. We are getting closer. Axel wrote a patch for restartless language packs support in Firefox

  5. This is probably off topic, but is this window a good place for search engines to be managed as well?

  6. Hi Arky:

    I have been using Quick Locale Switcher add-on to switch between EN, SL and DE for some time and I must say that
    a) so far, I have not missed anything
    b) there's a sizeable cross cut with your ideas above

    ... so if anybody here cant wait for the ideas above to gell, go and install a locale Switcher of your own liking (there must be dozens available).

    I am not in any way - except as a user - connected to authors of Quick Locale Switcher.



  7. I see 2 very needed uses for switching the language used without restarting Firefox or Thunderbird :
    1)In some countries e.g. Belgium or Switzerland, there are several languages used inside the country.
    2) In all other countries (except the ones that use development language) suppose that I have encountered a problem using "action_x_loc" and receiving error "message_x_loc" and that I wish to fill the problem in bugzilla. I'll translate them in "action_x_dev_my" and "message_x_dev_my" but there is no guaranty that "action_x_dev_my" = "action_x_dev_original" or "message_x_dev_my" = "message_x_dev_original" ! In my language there are many jokes on the result of translating in an other language and back in the original one...
    So I think that to obtain good bugzilla entries we need to have a STANDARD version with both the development and local language and an easy way to switch from one to the other (without restart) in case of problems...


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