I started my career at Microsoft in 1994 working on the Windows 95 International Test team. Globalization testing is a unique specialty in software testing just like performance, security, and other specific areas of testing. Globalization testing doesn’t necessarily require a tester to be bi-lingual, or be from a country other than the United States. A good globalization tester has an in-depth understanding of such things as character encoding types and issues associated with the different types, character mapping and conversion issues, data manipulation by the application, operating system, and network protocols.
Many people might also say that globalization testers also need to know that different locales (places) around the world use different formats for date and time (national conventions). For example, in the United States the default long date format is Thursday, June 03, 2010 but in Germany it is Donnerstag, 3. Juni 2010. A tester doesn’t have to ‘read’ German to see the abstract date format has changed from dddd, MMMM dd, yyyy to dddd, d. MMMM yyyy.
Testing for support of these different national conventions used around the world is referred to as basic international sufficiency testing. I suspect the reason why some people might assume basic international sufficiency testing these different national conventions is the domain of the globalization tester is because the national conventions are set by default on the different localized versions of a software product so that’s when they are tested. But, this reasoning is absurd!
First, not all products are “localized” into all languages or ‘locales.” So, who tests the Canadian long date format of MMMM-dd-yy, or the Georgian (Georgia) long date format of yyyy ‘წლის’ dd MM, dddd? Also, Vista and later versions of Windows allow the user to ‘customize’ the date and time “format pictures” to use different separator symbols and orderings.
Secondly, way too many bugs such as hard-coded date formats are found way too late in the testing cycle (because localized versions tend to lag US English language version). And of course, we all know the cost of finding bugs later in the lifecycle are more costly to correct.
So, we must ask if there is a way for basic international sufficiency testing to be ‘pushed upstream?’ And of course the answer is yes. The easiest way is to host a “globalization bug bash” early in the cycle. (A “bug bash” is a day where testers are given some basic training on attack patterns, fault models, etc., in a general focus area and then spend a day exploring different areas of the product trying to flush out bugs in a competition style format.) Another way is to assign each tester a different locale (preferably one that is not associated with a localized language version) and have them set their test and self-host environments to that locale during their testing.
This is easily accomplished on Windows test environments by having testers launch the Regional and Language control panel applet (the short cut is Start –> Run, then type “intl.cpl” without the quotes, and press the OK button).
This just tests for a basic level of international sufficiency, and any good tester would want to explore their project’s capability to support the more than 150 different locale national conventions at a deeper level. This is especially true if your product is going to be used by customers around the world (including Canada). But, of course, we don’t want to run the same tests on all 150+ locales supported by the operating system.
The national convention settings for a particular locale are stored in a data type called the LCID, and when we change our locale (Format on the latest Regional and Language control panel applet) through the user interface we are actually calling various National Language Support (NLS) APIs. A “world-wide” application should use the universal NLS APIs and data available via the operating system.
One way to test our application’s ability to correctly use the national convention data supplied by the operating system is to set customized conventions. For example, did you know the Windows 7 operating system allows a digit grouping symbol to be a string of up to 3 characters? Or the Negative sign symbol can be a string of up to 4 characters.
Although having testers change their default locale (Format) on their test environment and self-host machines is a good first step in basic international sufficiency testing, we also want to see if our application can process a negative value of “!NEG7” instead of just “–7,” and any textboxes correctly display the customized negative sign symbol (especially at the upper extreme boundary of the textbox size property.
To customize the national convention settings we simply click the Advanced settings… button on the Formats property sheet of the Region and Language control panel applet which instantiates a new dialog with 4 property sheets for Numbers, Currency, Time, and Date.
Solution for Test Automation
That’s all well and fine for basic testing, or testing a “few” customized values, but if we wanted to test the permutations for each convention, or the combination of different conventions on numbers, currency, time, or date formats the number of tests is astronomical. Typically, testers writing an automated test would try to navigate the user interface of the Regional and Language control panel applet and the Customize Format property sheets in order to set custom conventions.
In the past I provided some code snippets for changing the convention settings on the Customize Format property sheets on versions of Windows pre-Vista. Earlier this year I also provided code snippets for customizing the date format picture and the time format picture.
That’s all well and good, but I recently released a new test automation library called GlobalTester for test developers to use in their automated test scripts. The GlobalTester library provides testers methods to set custom national conventions for the current user without having to navigate the user interface of the Region and Language options control panel applet. These national conventions include number formats, currency formats, date formats, time formats, and also current location.
The following example illustrates how we might design a test script to customize the date format for a test and reset the date format to its original setting (restoring the test environment to pre-test conditions). (Usage documentation for the GlobalTester library is on the Testing Mentor website.)