Right-to-Left Testing in Mobile Apps

Did you know that both iOS and Android have easy ways to build your apps for localization testing?

As someone who loves languages, I’m used to just switching a test device into another language for testing and dogfooding over a longer period of time. But even I get a little scared that one day I’m going to switch my iPhone’s device language to Arabic and never find my way back to the language settings. And for teammates who don’t speak another language, it can be even more intimidating. Here’s where iOS and Android come to the rescue with build options for localization testing.

Screenshot of WordPress for iOS app with RTL pseudolanguage displaying backwards English text.
RTL Pseudolanguage on iOS

In Xcode you can select a pseudolanguage in your build scheme. For regular localization testing you can choose Double-Length Pseudolanguage to see how your app works in languages with longer strings. (My teammate Eduardo also suggests using the iOS text size settings as another way to test this on the fly.) But for RTL testing it’s especially handy — choose either Right-to-Left Pseudolanguage to get an RTL layout with regular English strings or Right-to-Left Pseudolanguage with Right-to-Left Strings to see the English strings backwards in the RTL layout. Build your app and you can test out the RTL experience, no language classes required!

For Android, you can enable pseudolocales in your build.gradle file. Then, on your device or emulator, go to the device language settings and select English (XA) or Arabic (XB). (If you don’t see those languages, make sure developer options are enabled.) The first language gives you lengthened strings and all kinds of exciting accented characters, but the second is where RTL testing kicks in — you get English strings backward with an RTL layout.

Now, off to file some GitHub issues for the localization bugs I just noticed … 😉

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Using WordPress. On Android. On a Mac.

I recently read an article on The Verge about how you can run Android apps on a Mac (or PC) using Chrome. That was all the invitation I needed to try it out. So off I went to find the three things I needed:
1. An APK
2. A PC, Mac, Linux, or Chromebook on Chrome Version 41+.
3. The ARC Welder app

I have a Mac, and you can download the ARC Welder app from the Chrome store, so all that was left was the APK. I’ve never owned an Android device, so I wasn’t sure what an APK was, but I assumed it was some kind of file type for Android apps. (It turns out APK stands for Android application package.) The article I read said you can get APKs from the Google Play Store, but I didn’t have any luck finding them there. Luckily, I had another idea.

I was most interested in testing (maybe you guessed already) the WordPress app. Since it’s an open-source app, I headed to the WordPress Android app repo on GitHub. There’s a release page there where you can download the APKs for all of the previous releases. Bingo!

After installing ARC Welder and adding the WordPress APK, the app fired up and I was ready to go. Easy peasy. The biggest challenge now is figuring out how to interact with a touch app on my laptop. For example, I have to tap twice to paste, rather than using a keyboard shortcut. But it’s really fun to explore the app this way, especially as it’s my first time interacting with the WordPress Android app (which is a bit different from the iOS app that I use on a daily basis).

And here I am, composing my first blog post on the app. Pretty neat. 🙂

Walking the Walk

I love walking and hiking, but in the winter it can be hard to motivate myself to ignore the cold/rain/gloom and go out for a walk. Even geocaching has trouble competing with the dismal weather. 

So I was pretty delighted when I came across a new app, The Walk. Basically, there’s a story in the app that’s divided into episodes. In each episode, you have to walk a certain number of minutes, and there’s incentive to walk consistently to finish each episode. By the end of the game you’ll have walked the entire length of the UK. Pretty awesome goal, especially for an expat living in the UK like me!

The same folks made the app Zombies, Run! That looks fun if you’re more into running than I am. (When it comes to building a long-term sustainable habit, walking is way more realistic for me.)