I’m in the process of adding support for multiple languages to FSCheck, but I’m stuck on how to manage the different languages.

I’m trying to support using FSCheck in both node and the browser, now that the FamilySearch JavaScript SDK supports both. That means I need a build process that packages up the main library and packages the languages separately so that, in the browser, you can selectively download and include the languages. In node, however, disk space is not really an issue so I want all languages to be automatically included.

Another requirement is for all the built language packs to be readily accessible to the demo page hosted on GitHub Pages. The restriction here is that the files must be served statically and therefore included in the gh-pages branch, or served from elsewhere.

I began by having the English language in a separate repository. There were lots of files and it had its own build process, so a separate repo just made sense. But that made it hard to test with the main library, and especially to include in the demo hosted on GitHub pages. I also didn’t like the idea of users going to n+1 different repos to download all the main library and the different languages they wanted to use.

While working on some of the date features of FSCheck, I noticed that Moment.js includes all of their languages in their main repo. This is appealing because it makes maintenance, testing, and distribution easier. However, Moment’s language files are much smaller and they don’t require a build process.1

Presently, the descriptions for each check is stored in separate markdown files. As the number of checks grows,2 so will the number of files in each language. The concern here is that git does not manage large numbers of files well. In the future, if we have 30 languages and 100 checks then that will be 3,000 language description files plus their history. But that isn’t anywhere close to larger repos which work well.

I began working in this direction but had some lingering questions:

  1. How will the build work? If I run the build on the main lib, should it also build the languages? Should I make it easy to build one language at a time?

  2. Will the tests reside in the language directories on in the main test directory? Should I make it easy to test one language at a time?

I ended up adding a package.json file to the English directory to describe how the package will be managed (entry point for node and the build script). Then I realized I was close to a git submodule; it had all the pieces except for a separate .git directory.

GitHub supports using submodules with pages; it will automatically install submodules when deploying the pages. That solves the requirement of having the language packs available for the demo, but it complicates development and usage in node. The developer now needs to remember to properly download and manage the submodules (which is not always easy). We can simplify the matter with npm install hooks and other scripts, but that leads to high levels of black magic and further complicates the setup. For useage in node, we would be replacing the normal npm dependencies with submodules which just feels wrong. Why go to all this work and maintain separate repos if they’re already separate repos to begin with? There was too much added complexity and anti-patterns to justify this method.

I’ve settled on including the language files directly in the main repo. The language packs are heavily dependent on the main library, should be versioned in step, and need to be readily accessible. The main fear of having a bloated repo is not valid and I can’t see any other downsides to it.

  1. Whether I should be using a build process for the language packs is worth considering in a separate post. 

  2. There are already many on the backlog