Maintain translations in Google Docs and export them to your Rails project.
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i18n-docs is a ruby gem that helps you to keep translations stored in Google Docs. This makes it easier for translators and project members to coordinate changes and updates. In addition, the standard features of Google Docs are super handy for this process: revision tracking, authorization, publishing, etc.

Although we at use it with Google Docs, it could be used with any CSV file.

this gem is currently in use and tested with Rails 3.1. It probably works with other 3.x versions, but probably not 2.x at the moment.


  • download translations from multiple Google spreadsheets and store to YAML files
  • import/export YAML files with a Google Spreadsheet
  • check YAML files for missing translations (rake i18n:find_missing_keys)



Add the GEM to your Rails project:

gem 'i18n-docs'

Create a configuration file in config/translations.yml:

  pre_signup.yml: ""
  navigation.yml: ""
  ... etc ...

Make the directories and files to hold the translations:

$ rails g i18n_docs:locales da se no
      create  config/locales/da/your_combination.yml.yml
      create  config/locales/da/pre_signup.yml.yml
      create  config/locales/da/navigation.yml.yml
      create  config/locales/da/extras.yml.yml
      create  config/locales/da/your_team.yml.yml
      create  config/locales/se/your_combination.yml.yml
      create  config/locales/se/pre_signup.yml.yml
      create  config/locales/se/navigation.yml.yml
      create  config/locales/se/extras.yml.yml
      create  config/locales/se/your_team.yml.yml
      create  config/locales/no/your_combination.yml.yml
      create  config/locales/no/pre_signup.yml.yml
      create  config/locales/no/navigation.yml.yml
      create  config/locales/no/extras.yml.yml
      create  config/locales/no/your_team.yml.yml

Finally, let Rails know what locales you will be using. Add this to config/application.rb:

# locales to support:
I18n.available_locales = [:en,:de,:it,:fr]

This defines which languages and translation files to import from a Google Spreadsheet. The content of the Spreadsheet URL is stored to a file called e.g. example1.yml within folders config/locales/en and all other detected locales.


Translation APIs

The built in (optional) auto-translation currently only supports Google Translation API.

Please help us add Bing or some other translation API support :)


Normalizes yml files, converting tabs to 2 spaces pr. default This is useful before export in order to better ensure that yaml files have valid syntax.

$ rails g i18n_docs:normalize da

By default, the normalized files are prefixed with '_'. In order to overwrite existing files, use the overwrite option.

$ rails g i18n_docs:normalize da --overwrite true

In addition you can use the space option to customize spaces pr tab.

$ rails g i18n_docs:normalize da se --spaces 4

If you want to clean up and remove the normalized files, use the delete option

$ rails g i18n_docs:normalize da se --delete

If you want to accept all normalized files prefixed with '_'

$ rails g i18n_docs:normalize da se --accept

Copy master

Use one locale as master and copy into other locales while changing the root key :)

$ rails g i18n_docs:copy_master da --into se no

Auto translate from the master locale file to each locale generated.

$ rails g i18n_docs:copy_master da --into sv --auto-translate


Export locale files as CSV files to upload to Google Docs

$ rails g i18n_docs:export

Use specific (here danish) locale as the master locale

$ rails g i18n_docs:export da

Auto translate from the master locale file to each csv generated.

$ rails g i18n_docs:export da --auto-translate

It also supports a locales option to control for which locales to export. The normalize option can be used to pre-normalize before export using the normalize generator.

$ rails g i18n_docs:export da --locales sv --auto-translate --normalize

Finally the outpur-dir option can be used to control where to export the cvs files. If you use the ~ (HOME alias) it will substitute with ENV['HOME'] and work as expected ;)

$ rails g i18n_docs:export da --locales sv --output-dir "~/Documents/csv"

Find missing keys

Find and list translation keys that do not exist in all locales

$ rails g i18n_docs:missing_keys


Import csv files from Google Docs as locale files

$ rails g i18n_docs:import

Rake Tasks

Following Rake tasks are added by the GEM to your Rails project:

  • rake i18n:export_translations Export all language files to CSV files (only files contained in 'en' folder are considered)
  • rake i18n:export_translations[da] (override default: only files in 'da' folder)

  • rake i18n:import_translations Download translations from Google Spreadsheet and save them to YAML files.

  • rake i18n:missing_keys Find and list translation keys that do not exist in all locales

Setup at Google Docs

  • At Google Docs, create a new spreadsheet for your translations. The first column is the translation key, the other columns are the languages: screenshot
  • use option File -> Publish To the Web screenshot
  • use get a link to generate a unique url that points to the CSV spreadsheet screenshot
  • From now on you should only update translations in Google Docs and run rake i18n:import_translations in the application to get changes. You can also export your


Pull requests welcome!

  • Create mocked tests that do not have to download our sample CSV files
  • Support more Translation APIs besides Google, fx Bing etc.




This gem is sponsored by It is licensed under the MIT license. If you're a ruby developer and want to work with us in Switzerland, please check out our jobs page.