SharePoint Localization – a (somewhat) comprehensive how-to!

Let me explain SharePoint

Localization – or showing users with different language preferences content in their preferred language – is not SharePoint’s strongest suite. It never was, and probably will never be, unless Microsoft perfects Machine Translation at some point. And even then it would probably require extra subscription, as Cognitive Services APIs are not available (above the peasant-tier) for free now either. In this article I’ll go through a few survival strategies for multilingual organizations – and I’ll try to expand the content as more options pop up!

Please note, that this article revolves mostly around Classic SharePoint. Microsoft’s current implementation of Modern SharePoint offers little-to-nothing for a controlled localization. It offers a curious way to use MUI to offer multilingual chrome with non-localized content, and that’s about it… But some of my tips work in Modern, too.

Different out-of-the-box localization features in SharePoint

So, what can SharePoint do out-of-the-box? There are a couple of features one can use – let’s go through them!

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Using “DetectedLanguage” to return only localized results from SharePoint Search index

How to SharePoint?

Localization and targeting of content in multilingual SharePoint installations is always an issue. SharePoint offers a multitude of ways profile content based on user language (or other properties), but none of the solutions are fool proof. This post describes how to fetch only localized results from SharePoint Search index, which solves at least some of the issues.

Description 

SharePoint Search index can be used in quite a few different ways. Probably the most typical way is by searching on SharePoint, or using webparts like Content Search or Content Results. However, one can also build custom functionality, custom client-side liftups, webjobs, single-page applications, mobile applications and a ton of other things that fetch data from SharePoint search index. However, on multilingual tenants, results are, by default, not localized at all. That means, that typically everyone will get the highest-ranking results back, despite them being in the wrong language. And that’s one of the many, many ways to annoy your users!

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Web part title changes not reflected to some users in multilingual SharePoint environment

SharePoint is not broken - it just does't work

I encountered another, interesting issue – this time in a SharePoint environment, where multiple display languages were in use. When changing the web part title on a web part on a classic SharePoint page, it seems like SharePoint saves the changes for you. In reality, only some users see the changes.

So, in short: Some other users, on some devices, see the old title, whereas some see the new one. It’s a confusing situation and difficult to debug.

Why do web part titles get changed seemingly randomly?

Imagine this: You have a SharePoint environment, where you have multiple different languages set up. You also have users with multiple different workstation configurations – including multiple different languages. Different users, however, quite randomly see different revisions of web part titles in a very weird manner. This happens seemingly randomly even on new client devices, so no client-side caching is the reason.

This actually likely works as designed, it’s just kind of a confusing implementation. We’ve got Microsoft to blame for that, and their pretty bad documentation… SharePoint actually localizes (and hence saves) Web part titles per-language. This is just not very clearly explained (at all) when editing the page! Continue reading