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The User's View

When GNU gettext will truly have reached is goal, average users should feel some kind of astonished pleasure, seeing the effect of that strange kind of magic that just makes their own native language appear everywhere on their screens. As for naive users, they would ideally have no special pleasure about it, merely taking their own language for granted, and becoming rather unhappy otherwise.

So, let's try to describe here how we would like the magic to operate, as we want the users' view to be the simplest, among all ways one could look at GNU gettext. All other software engineers: programmers, translators, maintainers, should work together in such a way that the magic becomes possible. This is a long and progressive undertaking, and information is available about the progress of the Translation Project.

When a package is distributed, there are two kind of users: installers who fetch the distribution, unpack it, configure it, compile it and install it for themselves or others to use; and end users that call programs of the package, once these have been installed at their site. GNU gettext is offering magic for both installers and end users.

The Current `ABOUT-NLS' Matrix

Languages are not equally supported in all packages using GNU gettext. To know if some package uses GNU gettext, one may check the distribution for the `ABOUT-NLS' information file, for some `ll.po' files, often kept together into some `po/' directory, or for an `intl/' directory. Internationalized packages have usually many `ll.po' files, where ll represents the language. section Magic for End Users for a complete description of the format for ll.

More generally, a matrix is available for showing the current state of the Translation Project, listing which packages are prepared for multi-lingual messages, and which languages is supported by each. Because this information changes often, this matrix is not kept within this GNU gettext manual. This information is often found in file `ABOUT-NLS' from various distributions, but is also as old as the distribution itself. A recent copy of this `ABOUT-NLS' file, containing up-to-date information, should generally be found on the Translation Project sites, and also on most GNU archive sites.

Magic for Installers

By default, packages fully using GNU gettext, internally, are installed in such a way that they to allow translation of messages. At configuration time, those packages should automatically detect whether the underlying host system provides usable catgets or gettext functions. If neither is present, the GNU gettext library should be automatically prepared and used. Installers may use special options at configuration time for changing this behavior. The command `./configure --with-included-gettext' bypasses system catgets or gettext to use GNU gettext instead, while `./configure --disable-nls' produces program totally unable to translate messages.

Internationalized packages have usually many `ll.po' files. Unless translations are disabled, all those available are installed together with the package. However, the environment variable LINGUAS may be set, prior to configuration, to limit the installed set. LINGUAS should then contain a space separated list of two-letter codes, stating which languages are allowed.

Magic for End Users

We consider here those packages using GNU gettext internally, and for which the installers did not disable translation at configure time. Then, users only have to set the LANG environment variable to the appropriate `ll' prior to using the programs in the package. See section The Current `ABOUT-NLS' Matrix. For example, let's presume a German site. At the shell prompt, users merely have to execute `setenv LANG de' (in csh) or `export LANG; LANG=de' (in sh). They could even do this from their `.login' or `.profile' file.

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