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This babel plugin compiles translations in the ICU message syntax into executable functions at build time, analyzing the used features and importing the required runtime helpers from precompile-intl-runtime to perform the operations that can't be performed at build time.

Differences with other internationalization libraries

This approach is different than the taken by libraries like intl-messageformat or format-message, which do all the work in the browser. The approach taken by those libraries is more flexible as you can just load json files with translations in plain text and that's it, but it also means the library needs to ship a parser for the ICU message syntax, and it always has to have ship code for all the features that the ICU syntax supports, even features you might not use, making those libraries several times bigger.

The strategy used by this library assumes that your app will have some sort of built process that you can use to analyze and precompile the messages in your app. This process spares the browser of the burden of doing the same process in the user's devices, resulting in smaller and faster apps.

Compile translations? WAT?

Ok, let's check it with an example.

Say you have a file with translations like this:

  "plain": "Some text without interpolations",
  "interpolated": "A text where I interpolate {count} times",
  "time": "Now is {now, time}",
  "time-custom-format": "The hour is {now, time, hour}",
  "date": "Today is {today, date}",
  "date-custom-format": "Today is {today, date, abbr-full}",
  "number": "My favorite number is {n, number}",
  "percent": "My favorite number is {n, number, percent}",
  "pluralized": "I have {count, plural,=0 {no cats} =1 {one cat} other {{count} cats}}",
  "pluralized-with-hash": "I have {count, plural, zero {no cats} one {just # cat} other {# cats}}",
  "selected": "{gender, select, male {He is a good boy} female {She is a good girl} other {They are good fellas}}",

This babel plugin will precompile that file into something like this:

import { __date, __interpolate, __number, __plural, __select, __time } from "precompile-intl-runtime";
export default {
  plain: "Some text without interpolations",
  interpolated: `A text where I interpolate ${__interpolate(count)} times`,
  time: now => `Now is ${__time(now)}`,
  "time-custom-format": now => `The hour is ${__time(now, "hour")}`,
  date: today => `Today is ${__date(today)}`,
  "date-custom-format": today => `Today is ${__date(today, "abbr-full")}`,
  number: n => `My favorite number is ${__number(n)}`,
  percent: n => `My favorite number is ${__number(n, "percent")}`,
  pluralized: count => `I have ${__plural(count, { 0: "no cats", 1: "one cat", h: `${__interpolate(count)} cats`})}`,
  "pluralized-with-hash": count => `I have ${__plural(count, { z: "no cats", o: `just ${count} cat`, h: `${count} cats`})}`,
  selected: gender => __select(gender, { male: "He is a good boy", female: "She is a good girl", other: "They are good fellas"})

As you see, translations with no logic remain unchanged, but translations that take arguments are transformed into functions that take those arguments and use some runtime helpers from precompile-intl-runtime, the runtime counterpart of this library.

Although this output may seem very verbose, it is designed to minify extremely well. Your minification step will transform keys like this:

"pluralized-with-hash": "I have {count, plural, zero {no cats} one {just # cat} other {# cats}}",
"pluralized-with-hash":t=>`I have ${jt(t,{z:"no cats",o:`just ${t} cat`,h:`${t} cats`})}`

On average the minified output is between 5% and 10% smaller than the original input, and the runtime library is much smaller than other alternatives and even smaller because it can be tree-shaken so only the helpers your translations need are included, varying the weight of the library between 1k and just a few bytes.

If you store translations in *.js file, you may use template literals (strings with backticks). These strings may span multiple lines in the file.

export default {
  notice: `
    Great to see you again!
    ... long text ...

Note: you should not use JavaScript variables and expressions in these template literals. This syntax is not supported:

const name = "Gregory"
export default {
  notice: `Hello, ${name}`

It will be better to use interpolations and pass values on call:

// Translations file.
export default {
  notice: `Hello, {name}`

// Page, layout, etc. See `precompile-intl-runtime`.
$t('notice', {values: {name: 'Gregory'}})

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npm i @gigahatch/babel-plugin-precompile-intl

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