A project that started in 2003 to translate a Linux desktop environment into Welsh is expected to take another two years to complete, according to project co-ordinator Kevin Donnelly.
The translation project, known as Kywaith Kyfieithu, aims to translate the whole of KDE into Welsh, but Donnelly admitted on Friday that the project is making slow progress.
"We've been plodding along on KDE since March 2003, but those KDE hackers keep making KDE ever bigger, so we're running to stand still," said Donnelly. "I think it will be a couple of years yet before we have a full KDE desktop in Welsh"
As KDE developers are constantly adding new applications and features, the number of textual items in the desktop environment that need to be translated is constantly increasing.
"It's a bit like painting the Forth Bridge," said Donnelly, comparing the project to the famous Forth Rail Bridge in Scotland, which, according to legend, is continuously being repainted.
One of the main problems for the project is the lack of contributors. "If we had five or six committed contributors we could get a lot more done," said Donnelly.
Coders with a good grasp of Welsh who are keen to contribute can contact Donnelly via the Kywaith Kyfieithu Web site, kyfieithu.co.uk.
The project has already translated "a large chunk of the KDE desktop", including the KOffice office suite, the Konqueror Web browser, and the KMail mail client, according to Donnelly.
At present, one of the project's main priorities is to complete a Welsh dictionary, spelling and grammar checker.
"One of the issues that came up while we were working on KDE was the lack of lexical tools under an appropriate open licence — dictionaries, spellcheckers, grammar checkers," said Donnelly. "We're having to reinvent the wheel from the spokes up, since because of licences we can't really scrape anything off other people's pages."
He expects to complete an 8,000-word Welsh dictionary in the next couple of months and claimed this will be the "first substantial dictionary in Welsh" to be released under the GPL. An initial version of the spelling and grammar checker should be available shortly afterwards.
Microsoft Office 2003 and Windows XP are also available in Welsh. But while the Office language pack allows users to "easily" change between Welsh and English, the Windows language pack can only be used in one language at a time, according to a Microsoft spokesperson on Monday.
As KDE can be used in both Welsh and English simultaneously, Donnelly claimed it is better suited than Microsoft software for Welsh offices and schools, which are usually bilingual.
"Once the Welsh version of Windows is installed, the only way you can get English again is to reinstall Windows from scratch, so it's of limited use," said Donnelly. "For example, in a school you would have to specify that one computer is for Welsh and the other computer is for English."
The Welsh language pack for KDE, called kde3-i18n-cy-3.5.0-8.noarch.rpm, can be downloaded from the SuSE Web site.