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11.2.1 The Interface

The minimal functionality an interface must have is a) to select a domain the strings are coming from (a single domain for all programs is not reasonable because its construction and maintenance is difficult, perhaps impossible) and b) to access a string in a selected domain.

This is principally the description of the gettext interface. It has a global domain which unqualified usages reference. Of course this domain is selectable by the user.

     char *textdomain (const char *domain_name);

This provides the possibility to change or query the current status of the current global domain of the LC_MESSAGE category. The argument is a null-terminated string, whose characters must be legal in the use in filenames. If the domain_name argument is NULL, the function returns the current value. If no value has been set before, the name of the default domain is returned: messages. Please note that although the return value of textdomain is of type char * no changing is allowed. It is also important to know that no checks of the availability are made. If the name is not available you will see this by the fact that no translations are provided.

To use a domain set by textdomain the function

     char *gettext (const char *msgid);

is to be used. This is the simplest reasonable form one can imagine. The translation of the string msgid is returned if it is available in the current domain. If it is not available, the argument itself is returned. If the argument is NULL the result is undefined.

One thing which should come into mind is that no explicit dependency to the used domain is given. The current value of the domain is used. If this changes between two executions of the same gettext call in the program, both calls reference a different message catalog.

For the easiest case, which is normally used in internationalized packages, once at the beginning of execution a call to textdomain is issued, setting the domain to a unique name, normally the package name. In the following code all strings which have to be translated are filtered through the gettext function. That's all, the package speaks your language.