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The Format of PO Files

   A PO file is made up of many entries, each entry holding the relation
between an original untranslated string and its corresponding
translation.  All entries in a given PO file usually pertain to a
single project, and all translations are expressed in a single target
language.  One PO file "entry" has the following schematic structure:

     #: REFERENCE...
     #, FLAG...

   The general structure of a PO file should be well understood by the
translator.  When using PO mode, very little has to be known about the
format details, as PO mode takes care of them for her.

   Entries begin with some optional white space.  Usually, when
generated through GNU `gettext' tools, there is exactly one blank line
between entries.  Then comments follow, on lines all starting with the
character `#'.  There are two kinds of comments: those which have some
white space immediately following the `#', which comments are created
and maintained exclusively by the translator, and those which have some
non-white character just after the `#', which comments are created and
maintained automatically by GNU `gettext' tools.  All comments, of
either kind, are optional.

   After white space and comments, entries show two strings, namely
first the untranslated string as it appears in the original program
sources, and then, the translation of this string.  The original string
is introduced by the keyword `msgid', and the translation, by `msgstr'.
The two strings, untranslated and translated, are quoted in various
ways in the PO file, using `"' delimiters and `\' escapes, but the
translator does not really have to pay attention to the precise quoting
format, as PO mode fully takes care of quoting for her.

   The `msgid' strings, as well as automatic comments, are produced and
managed by other GNU `gettext' tools, and PO mode does not provide
means for the translator to alter these.  The most she can do is merely
deleting them, and only by deleting the whole entry.  On the other
hand, the `msgstr' string, as well as translator comments, are really
meant for the translator, and PO mode gives her the full control she

   The comment lines beginning with `#,' are special because they are
not completely ignored by the programs as comments generally are.  The
comma separated list of FLAGs is used by the `msgfmt' program to give
the user some better diagnostic messages.  Currently there are two
forms of flags defined:

     This flag can be generated by the `msgmerge' program or it can be
     inserted by the translator herself.  It shows that the `msgstr'
     string might not be a correct translation (anymore).  Only the
     translator can judge if the translation requires further
     modification, or is acceptable as is.  Once satisfied with the
     translation, she then removes this `fuzzy' attribute.  The
     `msgmerge' program inserts this when it combined the `msgid' and
     `msgstr' entries after fuzzy search only.  Note: Fuzzy Entries.

     These flags should not be added by a human.  Instead only the
     `xgettext' program adds them.  In an automatized PO file processing
     system as proposed here the user changes would be thrown away
     again as soon as the `xgettext' program generates a new template

     In case the `c-format' flag is given for a string the `msgfmt'
     does some more tests to check to validity of the translation.
     Note: msgfmt Invocation.

   A different kind of entries is used for translations which involve
plural forms.

     #: REFERENCE...
     #, FLAG...

   It happens that some lines, usually whitespace or comments, follow
the very last entry of a PO file.  Such lines are not part of any entry,
and PO mode is unable to take action on those lines.  By using the PO
mode function `M-x po-normalize', the translator may get rid of those
spurious lines.  Note: Normalizing.

   The remainder of this section may be safely skipped by those using
PO mode, yet it may be interesting for everybody to have a better idea
of the precise format of a PO file.  On the other hand, those not
having Emacs handy should carefully continue reading on.

syntax for a character string, including the surrounding quotes and
imbedded backslashed escape sequences.  When the time comes to write
multi-line strings, one should not use escaped newlines.  Instead, a
closing quote should follow the last character on the line to be
continued, and an opening quote should resume the string at the
beginning of the following PO file line.  For example:

     msgid ""
     "Here is an example of how one might continue a very long string\n"
     "for the common case the string represents multi-line output.\n"

In this example, the empty string is used on the first line, to allow
better alignment of the `H' from the word `Here' over the `f' from the
word `for'.  In this example, the `msgid' keyword is followed by three
strings, which are meant to be concatenated.  Concatenating the empty
string does not change the resulting overall string, but it is a way
for us to comply with the necessity of `msgid' to be followed by a
string on the same line, while keeping the multi-line presentation
left-justified, as we find this to be a cleaner disposition.  The empty
string could have been omitted, but only if the string starting with
`Here' was promoted on the first line, right after `msgid'.(1) It was
not really necessary either to switch between the two last quoted
strings immediately after the newline `\n', the switch could have
occurred after _any_ other character, we just did it this way because
it is neater.

   One should carefully distinguish between end of lines marked as `\n'
_inside_ quotes, which are part of the represented string, and end of
lines in the PO file itself, outside string quotes, which have no
incidence on the represented string.

   Outside strings, white lines and comments may be used freely.
Comments start at the beginning of a line with `#' and extend until the
end of the PO file line.  Comments written by translators should have
the initial `#' immediately followed by some white space.  If the `#'
is not immediately followed by white space, this comment is most likely
generated and managed by specialized GNU tools, and might disappear or
be replaced unexpectedly when the PO file is given to `msgmerge'.

   ---------- Footnotes ----------

   (1) This limitation is not imposed by GNU `gettext', but is for
compatibility with the `msgfmt' implementation on Solaris.

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