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8.2.1.2 How to determine which catalog to be used

The functions to retrieve the translations for a given message have a remarkable simple interface. But to provide the user of the program still the opportunity to select exactly the translation s/he wants and also to provide the programmer the possibility to influence the way to locate the search for catalogs files there is a quite complicated underlying mechanism which controls all this. The code is complicated the use is easy.

Basically we have two different tasks to perform which can also be performed by the catgets functions:

  1. Locate the set of message catalogs. There are a number of files for different languages and which all belong to the package. Usually they are all stored in the filesystem below a certain directory.

    There can be arbitrary many packages installed and they can follow different guidelines for the placement of their files.

  2. Relative to the location specified by the package the actual translation files must be searched, based on the wishes of the user. I.e., for each language the user selects the program should be able to locate the appropriate file.

This is the functionality required by the specifications for gettext and this is also what the catgets functions are able to do. But there are some problems unresolved:

We can divide the configuration actions in two parts: the one is performed by the programmer, the other by the user. We will start with the functions the programmer can use since the user configuration will be based on this.

As the functions described in the last sections already mention separate sets of messages can be selected by a domain name. This is a simple string which should be unique for each program part with uses a separate domain. It is possible to use in one program arbitrary many domains at the same time. E.g., the GNU C Library itself uses a domain named libc while the program using the C Library could use a domain named foo. The important point is that at any time exactly one domain is active. This is controlled with the following function.

— Function: char * textdomain (const char *domainname)

Preliminary: | MT-Safe | AS-Unsafe lock heap | AC-Unsafe lock mem | See POSIX Safety Concepts.

The textdomain function sets the default domain, which is used in all future gettext calls, to domainname. Please note that dgettext and dcgettext calls are not influenced if the domainname parameter of these functions is not the null pointer.

Before the first call to textdomain the default domain is messages. This is the name specified in the specification of the gettext API. This name is as good as any other name. No program should ever really use a domain with this name since this can only lead to problems.

The function returns the value which is from now on taken as the default domain. If the system went out of memory the returned value is NULL and the global variable errno is set to ENOMEM. Despite the return value type being char * the return string must not be changed. It is allocated internally by the textdomain function.

If the domainname parameter is the null pointer no new default domain is set. Instead the currently selected default domain is returned.

If the domainname parameter is the empty string the default domain is reset to its initial value, the domain with the name messages. This possibility is questionable to use since the domain messages really never should be used.

— Function: char * bindtextdomain (const char *domainname, const char *dirname)

Preliminary: | MT-Safe | AS-Unsafe heap | AC-Unsafe mem | See POSIX Safety Concepts.

The bindtextdomain function can be used to specify the directory which contains the message catalogs for domain domainname for the different languages. To be correct, this is the directory where the hierarchy of directories is expected. Details are explained below.

For the programmer it is important to note that the translations which come with the program have be placed in a directory hierarchy starting at, say, /foo/bar. Then the program should make a bindtextdomain call to bind the domain for the current program to this directory. So it is made sure the catalogs are found. A correctly running program does not depend on the user setting an environment variable.

The bindtextdomain function can be used several times and if the domainname argument is different the previously bound domains will not be overwritten.

If the program which wish to use bindtextdomain at some point of time use the chdir function to change the current working directory it is important that the dirname strings ought to be an absolute pathname. Otherwise the addressed directory might vary with the time.

If the dirname parameter is the null pointer bindtextdomain returns the currently selected directory for the domain with the name domainname.

The bindtextdomain function returns a pointer to a string containing the name of the selected directory name. The string is allocated internally in the function and must not be changed by the user. If the system went out of core during the execution of bindtextdomain the return value is NULL and the global variable errno is set accordingly.