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16.11. Using gettext

16.11.3. Discussion

gettext is a set of tools that makes it easier for your application to produce multilingual messages. Compiling PHP with the --with-gettext option enables functions to retrieve the appropriate text from gettext-format message catalogs, and there are a number of external tools to edit the message catalogs.

With gettext, messages are divided into domains, and all messages for a particular domain are stored in the same file. bindtextdomain( ) tells gettext where to find the message catalog for a particular domain. A call to:


indicates that the message catalog for the gnumeric domain in the en_CA locale is in the file /usr/share/locale/en_CA/LC_MESSAGES/gnumeric.mo.

The textdomain('gnumeric') function sets the default domain to gnumeric. Calling gettext( ) retrieves a message from the default domain. There are other functions, such as dgettext( ), that let you retrieve a message from a different domain. When gettext( ) (or dgettext( )) is called, it returns the appropriate message for the current locale. If there's no message in the catalog for the current locale that corresponds to the argument passed to it, gettext( ) (or dgettext( )) returns just its argument. As a result, if you haven't translated all your messages, your code prints out English (or whatever your base language is) for those untranslated messages.

Setting the default domain with textdomain( ) makes each subsequent retrieval of a message from that domain more concise, because you just have to call gettext('Good morning') instead of dgettext('domain','Good morning'). However, if even gettext('Good morning') is too much typing, you can take advantage of an undocumented function alias: _( ) for gettext( ). Instead of gettext('Good morning'), use _('Good morning').

The gettext web site has helpful and detailed information for managing the information flow between programmers and translators and how to efficiently use gettext. It also includes information on other tools you can use to manage your message catalogs, such as a special GNU Emacs mode.

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