Translating plural and singular forms in CakePHP

I don’t know how good you know the *.po translation file syntax, but for me it was a text file with “msgid” and “msgstr”, where msgid is the string, which could be found in a code of the app, wrapped with __() function and msgstr is the string which is the translation.

Following this convention in all of my projects I had not problems till now. But on this one I’ve noticed that the translation is not quite accurate especially when translating time. I am speaking about usage of timeAgoInWords() function from the TimeHelper.

I noticed that when there is a translation file for the specific language singular and plural words are not translated properly, I had results like “3 hour and 34 minute” instead of “3 hours and 34 minutes”.

I thought that I’ve found a bug, and I submitted a ticket in the trac, but I was wrong, because syntax of the PO files is a little bit extended than my understanding. ๐Ÿ™‚

99% of the cases the standard approach could fit just fine, but when it’s used __n() function which is described as:

Returns correct plural form of message identified by $singular and $plural for count $count.

the translation file needed a specific syntax. Here is the example of it:

msgid "hour"
msgid_plural "hours"
msgstr[0] "hour"
msgstr[1] "hours"

As you can see instead of msgid<->msgstr pair, there is also msgid_plural and array of msgstr which holding the translations of singular and plural values. Note that in some languages plural could have 2 or more forms. In these cases the syntax will be (Czech):

msgid "%1 second"
msgid_plural "%1 seconds"
msgstr[0] "%1 sekunda"
msgstr[1] "%1 sekundy"
msgstr[2] "%1 sekund"

It’s good to set the plural forms definition in the project settings which are in the beggining of the file. This is very handy when you use PoEdit or similar translation tools, because if is your setting is correct, these tools will provide for each plural form separate tab.

The syntax of plural form definition is like:

"Plural-Forms: nplurals=1; plural=0;\n"

It hold 2 parameters the first one holding the number of plural forms in the specific language and the second one is an expression how to determine the plurals. If you don’t know how to set this correct for a specific language, check this good document of all available languages. ๐Ÿ™‚

More information about the PO syntax I founded in that article. I’ve noticed in that the article there are shortcuts, which are not useful for me so far, but you never knows, in the future they could be handy.

Regarding to that I am wondering is there a POT file for the core lib translations which could be a big helper to anyone who need to translate the whole framework.

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Blast from the past

Hey guys,

last week I’ve worked on a project which I finished somewhere in spring of 2007 and I decided to share my experience with this post. I don’t know did you had such experience, but for me it was interesting, because working on old code is always challenge.

Basically, the project was really small one, which uses 80% of scaffolding, so really nothing complicated. Now the client wanted some extensions to the core functionality /like adding few more look-up tables and some basic reports/ and because I was the only one developer who worked on it, they ask me to do this and I agreed.

My first thought was to upgrade the core CakePHP lib to the last version, but after thinking I decided not to, because if something goes wrong /like some deprecated functions/, I need to do more work in debugging rather than focusing on the real tasks.

What I noticed while I coded?

The major one – Improvement of the console script. In the past it was in the /cake/scripts/. In the folder there were acl.php, bake.php and bake2.php, extract.php for label extraction and master bake which I never used. Now, the console script is more advanced and provide more functions. Still I am not big expert on it and I still using it for basic operations :).

Fully translated labels – it’s related to the previous one – when the code was generated with old bake script, some of the labels weren’t wrapped with __() function and especially for me it was biggest pain. Someone could tell me that there was ability to modify the templates, but I personally never did it.

The truth is that CakePHP in fact is improved a lot since then. Hopefully it will continue in this direction in the future as well.

Anyway, it was really interesting experience for me.

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Working with nested data and find method with breadcrumbs in CakePHP

Do you working with tree data in your projects?

Well, in CakePHP there is a Tree behavior which will help you to handle such structures. Let me show you how to use it in your projects. Hierarchical data structures are very well described here by Mike Hillyer and I would suggest you to take a look before you continue reading.

Let’s say we have following data structure:

CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS `categories` (
  `id` INT(10) NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
  `parent_id` INT(10) DEFAULT NULL,
  `name` VARCHAR(255) DEFAULT NULL,
  `lft` INT(10) DEFAULT NULL,
  `rght` INT(10) DEFAULT NULL,
  PRIMARY KEY  (`id`)
)

Note, that in that table there are 3 special fields: parent_id, lft and rght.

The first one is very familiar to everyone who understanding the tree structures. The other 2 are to handle the MPTT logic (see the article mentioned above). The beautiful part of using Tree behavior is that you don’t need to worry about these 2 extra columns. The behavior will fill them automatically. ๐Ÿ™‚

So, continue with the example. Attach the Tree behavior to your Model:

<?php
class Category extends AppModel {
    var $name = 'Category';
    var $useTable = 'categories';
    var $actsAs = array('Tree' => 'nested');
}
?>

That’s it. Now when you save (insert or update) your data into the table, the fields lft and rght will be automatically populated with the correct values. Of course your task is to have proper value set in parent_id ๐Ÿ™‚

Why this is so important?
As you already know /if you read the article for MPTT/ using lft and rght values will give possibility to get very easy nested data in various ways.
In Model::find function there is already threaded option, but what about having breadcrumbs?

Here is a way to extend the Model::find function with this functionality. /inspired by Daniel Hofstetter’s post/

<?php
class Category extends AppModel {
    var $name = 'Category';
    var $useTable = 'categories';
    var $actsAs = array('Tree' => 'nested');

    public function find($type, $options = array()) {
        switch ($type) {
            case 'breadcrumbs':
                if(!isset($options['fields']))
                    $options['fields'] = null;
                if(!isset($options['recursive']))
                    $options['recursive'] = null;
                if(is_object($this->Behaviors->Tree) && $options['id']){
                    return $this->Behaviors->Tree->getpath($this, $options['id'], $options['fields'], $options['recursive']);
                } else {
                    return null;
                }
                break;
            default:
                return parent::find($type, $options);
        }
    }
}
?>

As you can see I am using the function TreeBehavior::getpath. There are a lot of handy functions in this behavior, but for breadcrumbs example this is just enough.

How to use it?

$this->Category->find('breadcrumbs', array('id'=>1));

so if you have data like this:

1 Root
2     Cat1
3         Cat1.1
4     Cat2

and use the function mentioned above with id=3 the result will be:

Array
(
    [0] => Array
        (
            [Category] => Array
                (
                    [id] => 1
                    [parent_id] =>
                    [name] => Root
                    [lft] => 1
                    [rght] => 8
                )
        )

    [1] => Array
        (
            [Category] => Array
                (
                    [id] => 2
                    [parent_id] => 1
                    [name] => Cat1
                    [lft] => 2
                    [rght] => 5
                )
        )

    [2] => Array
        (
            [Category] => Array
                (
                    [id] => 3
                    [parent_id] => 2
                    [name] => Cat1.1
                    [lft] => 3
                    [rght] => 4
                )
         )
)

After this with

$breadcrumbs = Set::extract('/Category/name', $result);
echo ' / '.implode(' / ', $breadcrumbs);

you will have the following result

/ Root / Cat1 / Cat1.1

I am leaving to you the styling of it as well as adding the links to the parent nodes.

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Check your settings while migrating Cake projects

Today I decided to restart the work of a project. The restart includes migration on the other machine as well as updating the Cakephp lib with the final version on the server.

So I copied the whole directory of the project on the second computer /which meant to be the server from now on/ and after this in the cake directory and typed “svn update”. There were some changed files and I received the latest version on the server. So far, so good.

Then I migrated the DB as well, but I decided to follow a new name convention for databases – all database names to follow the full server name i.e. for mydomain.com I would have a mydomain_com /because MySql doesn’t allow dot in the name I replaced dot with underscore/. on the old computer the database was called “mydomain”.

Ok, I changed /app/tmp permission and I decided to see what was the impact of all these actions.

Surprisingly I’ve seen blank screen instead of application screen. I said myself “sh*t, what’s happened? Does the svn update ruin everything? Am I using too old code style?”. Start digging into the code, but whatever I made there wasn’t any change on the screen. Really odd situation. do I found the second “BIG” bug in the cakePHP lib :D, well not true. Here is the explanation.

Finally after 1/2 hour I realized that I’ve changed the name of the database and the old database name doesn’t exist on the server :D. I agree, it’s stupid error and it’s all my fault, but I am wondering why there is no error message telling, that there is no such DB on the server or similar?

I know that on the home.ctp page, which is the default page when you checkout cake from the repository where you can see if the app is connected or not, but what’s happen, when you don’t use this page? Or even as it is in my other project when I rewrite the page controller and I cannot access the default start up page at all?

I think there should be a way which could notify the developers for such stupid “error” or misconfiguration. At lease if the debug level is set to 2 or 3 it should warn I guess.

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The dummy mistake while coding

No body is insured from stupid mistakes while writing code. I am not insured, but subscribed for such things. ๐Ÿ™‚

Here is the story:
Yesterday, while I was working for a small project I lost 1 hour to detect the stupidest mistake I ever made. Here I will explain what happened and how dummy I fee after that.

I am writing an application where users insert records into the database, and after that on every show of the record, there is a counter field which need to add up the number in it. Simple and easy situation.

While I was working I noticed that only one record /from 5 in the database/ got updates on his counter fields. All other had 0, while I was petty much sure that I’ve seen all these records on the screen. Well, I forced showing the 0 rows but the result was the same. Then I start investigating what could be the problem, but in the database everything was just fine. I deleted all records and started inserting texts /because there are some text fields important in this story/ one by one. Strangely, but again some of the records got update, some not. Finally /by accident/ I noticed, that counter changes when there is a space before or in the end of the value of the text I entered.
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Yet Another Multicolumn Layout (YAML)

Today I found a nice CSS framework which claim to solve the multi-column layout issues which everyone of us meet during the construction of the web site design.

Actually I am speaking about YAML – Yet Another Multicolumn Layout. At first time I mix it with Yaml.org, but actually it’s a different thing. It’s a set of CSS files + few image files which would sort the issues with multi-column layouts.

The benefit is the availability of good documentation and nice examples.

Hope you found it helpful.

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Using more than one database connection in CakePHP

Probably is pretty obvious for most of the advanced users, but when I started my experience with CakePHP I read a lot of configuring a database, but not multiple ones. There are articles how to use database for development and for production without changing anything but rewriting a function in DATABASE_CONFIG class.

These days we need to choose way of splitting the functionality and we have to decide: Shall we use different databases or shall we put a prefix for every table. So far we choose to use prefix, but I dig into this and I realized that every model could be attached to different database.

Here is the example how to do this:
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11 Things which every developer would do when starting a new project

For every project which is going to be started there are at least 11 things which you need to do before. Here is my list of things which need to be happen before starting any project. During my work experience I’ve started many projects and I think that these are the most important issues which you need to do before start the project.
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CakePHP and Layout – secret of data passing through

In my current project I need to deal with the Layout more than adding some header, static menu and footer in it. I need to have dynamic menu loaded from the database plus additional blocks which will contain some data related to the main content. For example YouTube.com /and many other sites/ has some blocks which appear all over the site like related movies block from the right depending from the tags related to the main movie. There are a lot examples.

Well, searching in the CakePHP Manual, CakePHP Google Group or Bakery doesn’t satisfy my understanding how to solve the case. Apart from $anything_for_layout: Making HTML from the View available to the layout article I didnt find anything on this topic. And this one sounds like a hack rather than a complex solution.
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CakePHP – my new best friend.

From the beginning of the year I decided to move from my home-grown PHP Framework to CakePHP. Here I will explain how I moved and which were the reasons for this. I will mention only the important things which drive me to this decision.

So here are the most critical issues while you using Home-grown or Community Frameworks:
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