About the ResourceBundle Class
Trail: Internationalization
Lesson: Isolating Locale-Specific Data

About the ResourceBundle Class

How a ResourceBundle is Related to a Locale

Conceptually each ResourceBundle is a set of related subclasses that share the same base name. The list that follows shows a set of related subclasses. ButtonLabel is the base name. The characters following the base name indicate the language code, country code, and variant of a Locale. ButtonLabel_en_GB, for example, matches the Locale specified by the language code for English (en) and the country code for Great Britain (GB).


To select the appropriate ResourceBundle, invoke the ResourceBundle.getBundle method. The following example selects the ButtonLabel ResourceBundle for the Locale that matches the French language, the country of Canada, and the UNIX platform.

Locale currentLocale = new Locale("fr", "CA", "UNIX");
ResourceBundle introLabels = ResourceBundle.getBundle(
                                 "ButtonLabel", currentLocale);

If a ResourceBundle class for the specified Locale does not exist, getBundle tries to find the closest match. For example, if ButtonLabel_fr_CA_UNIX is the desired class and the default Locale is en_US, getBundle will look for classes in the following order:


Note that getBundle looks for classes based on the default Locale before it selects the base class (ButtonLabel). If getBundle fails to find a match in the preceding list of classes, it throws a MissingResourceException. To avoid throwing this exception, you should always provide a base class with no suffixes.

The ListResourceBundle and PropertyResourceBundle Subclasses

The abstract class ResourceBundle has two subclasses: PropertyResourceBundle and ListResourceBundle.

A PropertyResourceBundle is backed by a properties file. A properties file is a plain-text file that contains translatable text. Properties files are not part of the Java source code, and they can contain values for String objects only. If you need to store other types of objects, use a ListResourceBundle instead. The section Backing a ResourceBundle with Properties Files shows you how to use a PropertyResourceBundle.

The ListResourceBundle class manages resources with a convenient list. Each ListResourceBundle is backed by a class file. You can store any locale-specific object in a ListResourceBundle. To add support for an additional Locale, you create another source file and compile it into a class file. The section Using a ListResource Bundle has a coding example you may find helpful.

The ResourceBundle class is flexible. If you first put your locale-specific String objects in a PropertyResourceBundle and then later decided to use ListResourceBundle instead, there is no impact on your code. For example, the following call to getBundle will retrieve a ResourceBundle for the appropriate Locale, whether ButtonLabel is backed up by a class or by a properties file:

ResourceBundle introLabels = ResourceBundle.getBundle(
                                 "ButtonLabel", currentLocale);

Key-Value Pairs

ResourceBundle objects contain an array of key-value pairs. You specify the key, which must be a String, when you want to retrieve the value from the ResourceBundle. The value is the locale-specific object. The keys in the following example are the OkKey and CancelKey strings:

class ButtonLabel_en extends ListResourceBundle {
    // English version
    public Object[][] getContents() {
        return contents;
    static final Object[][] contents = {
        {"OkKey", "OK"},
        {"CancelKey", "Cancel"},

To retrieve the OK String from the ResourceBundle, you would specify the appropriate key when invoking getString:

String okLabel = ButtonLabel.getString("OkKey");

A properties file contains key-value pairs. The key is on the left side of the equal sign, and the value is on the right. Each pair is on a separate line. The values may represent String objects only. The following example shows the contents of a properties file named

OkKey = OK
CancelKey = Cancel

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