SimpleLocalize on Rails

When your application spans across multiple countries and languages, managing your translations using Rails’ default locale files in git becomes too cumbersome. We recently moved a clients Rails app to SimpleLocalize to give translators and developers a better workflow around translations. This is how we did it.

The setup

Install the CLI

We’re going to make use of SimpleLocalizes CLI tool to move translations around, so we start by installing that.

I am not a big fan of the curl | bash process outlined in their docs, especially not when it then asks for root access 😬, so I’ve opted for downloading the CLI from their releases page. But you do whatever fits you and your setup here, the important thing is that we get a simplelocalize command to run.

Configure CLI for Rails defaults

Having installed the CLI we can run

simplelocalize init

to generate a default config file in the directory, we’re in. Personally I prefer having config files stored in /config, so let’s move it elsewhere there and add it to git.

mv simplelocalize.yml config/
git add config/simplelocalize.yml

Do note that this means we have to add a -c option to all simplelocalize commands for it to pick up our config file.

Now feel free to customize your config file as you please. I’d recommend the following options, though, as they match what we’re used to in Rails:

uploadPath: ./config/locales/application.{lang}.yml
uploadFormat: yaml

downloadPath: ./config/locales/application.{lang}.yml
downloadFormat: yaml

Most of the CLI commands need to be authorized with --apiKey. The API key can be found in the ‘Integrations > Project credentials > API Key’.

You can keep your API key in the config file or you can provide it on the CLI whenever you call the CLI, that’s up to you. Keeping secret keys out of git is a good practice, though. Ultimately, storing the API key in an environment variable is probably the best approach.

Import your existing translations

After signing up for SimpleLocalize and creating a project for your application, you want to seed the project with all your existing translations. Head to the “Data” tab in SimpleLocalize and choose YAML file under Import translations.

To configure the import for the format used by I18n’s YAML files, use the following settings:

Now, upload each of your language files one by one (sidenote, being able to choose and upload multiple files at once here would be great).

Alternatively, you can use the CLI to perform the above process, assuming you’ve configured everything as described:

simplelocalize -c config/simplelocalize.yml upload --apiKey $API_KEY

Download translations to development

Now that SimpleLocalize is the ultimate source of truth for translations, we should remove them from our repository. You could still have them in git, and it would ease some things (like deployment). We have found, though, that the overall cost in terms of merge conflicts and confusion as to what translations are the most recent makes that solution untenable.


git rm config/locales/*
touch config/locales/.gitkeep
echo config/locales >> .gitignore
git add config/locales/.gitkeep
git commit -m "Remove translation files"

Now, your up-to-date translations is no more than a

simplelocalize -c config/simplelocalize.yml download --apiKey $API_KEY


Download translations during deployment

Now that we have removed our translations from the project, they’ll no longer be included when we run a deployment. Instead we’ll have to download the most recent translations from SimpleLocalize during deployment.

This application uses Hatchbox for deployments, so the following applies directly to that service. However, you should be able to replicate this using whatever hosting provider you use.

During the build phase (we use a Custom build script) we can download the translations from SimpleLocalize using the CLI - assuming it’s installed:

simplelocalize -c config/simplelocalize.yml download --apiKey $API_KEY

This is just like we do in development and you might consider wrapping this in a script that you can run whenever/wherever needed (we’ve got a script/translations/pull) that does exactly this.

During the pre-build phase we’ll make sure the CLI is installed on the build server. Your milage may vary, but we found that downloading a specific release

How you install the CLI on your build server is up to you, but you could do it via a script like the following:

wget --no-verbose
mv simplelocalize-cli-linux ~/bin/simplelocalize
chmod a+x ~/bin/simplelocalize

Download translations on CI

We use Circle as our CI server and we need the translations downloaded there as well in order to run tests and build the project assets.

Unfortunately we ran into issues with the most recent versions of the CLI. Because Circle is running older versions of Ubuntu we can’t run the newer CLI releases:

simplelocalize: /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/ version `GLIBC_2.33' not found (required by simplelocalize)
simplelocalize: /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/ version `GLIBC_2.34' not found (required by simplelocalize)

We ended up just installing a legacy version of the CLI (2.1.1), which works, and subsequently using it to download translations:

curl -s | bash
simplelocalize -c config/simplelocalize.yml download --apiKey $API_KEY

(on CI I am not too worried about the curl | bash pattern - should I be?)

Closing notes

Now all that is left is inviting your developers and translators to SimpleLocalize and start localizing.