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8 Message Translation

The program's interface with the human should be designed in a way to ease the human the task. One of the possibilities is to use messages in whatever language the user prefers.

Printing messages in different languages can be implemented in different ways. One could add all the different languages in the source code and add among the variants every time a message has to be printed. This is certainly no good solution since extending the set of languages is difficult (the code must be changed) and the code itself can become really big with dozens of message sets.

A better solution is to keep the message sets for each language are kept in separate files which are loaded at runtime depending on the language selection of the user.

The GNU C Library provides two different sets of functions to support message translation. The problem is that neither of the interfaces is officially defined by the POSIX standard. The catgets family of functions is defined in the X/Open standard but this is derived from industry decisions and therefore not necessarily based on reasonable decisions.

As mentioned above the message catalog handling provides easy extendibility by using external data files which contain the message translations. I.e., these files contain for each of the messages used in the program a translation for the appropriate language. So the tasks of the message handling functions are

  • locate the external data file with the appropriate translations.
  • load the data and make it possible to address the messages
  • map a given key to the translated message

The two approaches mainly differ in the implementation of this last step. The design decisions made for this influences the whole rest.

  Published under the terms of the GNU General Public License Design by Interspire