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8.3.3 Entry Positioning

The cursor in a PO file window is almost always part of an entry. The only exceptions are the special case when the cursor is after the last entry in the file, or when the PO file is empty. The entry where the cursor is found to be is said to be the current entry. Many PO mode commands operate on the current entry, so moving the cursor does more than allowing the translator to browse the PO file, this also selects on which entry commands operate.

Some PO mode commands alter the position of the cursor in a specialized way. A few of those special purpose positioning are described here, the others are described in following sections (for a complete list try C-h m):


Redisplay the current entry (po-current-entry).


Select the entry after the current one (po-next-entry).


Select the entry before the current one (po-previous-entry).


Select the first entry in the PO file (po-first-entry).


Select the last entry in the PO file (po-last-entry).


Record the location of the current entry for later use (po-push-location).


Return to a previously saved entry location (po-pop-location).


Exchange the current entry location with the previously saved one (po-exchange-location).

Any Emacs command able to reposition the cursor may be used to select the current entry in PO mode, including commands which move by characters, lines, paragraphs, screens or pages, and search commands. However, there is a kind of standard way to display the current entry in PO mode, which usual Emacs commands moving the cursor do not especially try to enforce. The command . (po-current-entry) has the sole purpose of redisplaying the current entry properly, after the current entry has been changed by means external to PO mode, or the Emacs screen otherwise altered.

It is yet to be decided if PO mode helps the translator, or otherwise irritates her, by forcing a rigid window disposition while she is doing her work. We originally had quite precise ideas about how windows should behave, but on the other hand, anyone used to Emacs is often happy to keep full control. Maybe a fixed window disposition might be offered as a PO mode option that the translator might activate or deactivate at will, so it could be offered on an experimental basis. If nobody feels a real need for using it, or a compulsion for writing it, we should drop this whole idea. The incentive for doing it should come from translators rather than programmers, as opinions from an experienced translator are surely more worth to me than opinions from programmers thinking about how others should do translation.

The commands n (po-next-entry) and p (po-previous-entry) move the cursor the entry following, or preceding, the current one. If n is given while the cursor is on the last entry of the PO file, or if p is given while the cursor is on the first entry, no move is done.

The commands < (po-first-entry) and > (po-last-entry) move the cursor to the first entry, or last entry, of the PO file. When the cursor is located past the last entry in a PO file, most PO mode commands will return an error saying ‘After last entry’. Moreover, the commands < and > have the special property of being able to work even when the cursor is not into some PO file entry, and one may use them for nicely correcting this situation. But even these commands will fail on a truly empty PO file. There are development plans for the PO mode for it to interactively fill an empty PO file from sources. See Marking Translatable Strings.

The translator may decide, before working at the translation of a particular entry, that she needs to browse the remainder of the PO file, maybe for finding the terminology or phraseology used in related entries. She can of course use the standard Emacs idioms for saving the current cursor location in some register, and use that register for getting back, or else, use the location ring.

PO mode offers another approach, by which cursor locations may be saved onto a special stack. The command m (po-push-location) merely adds the location of current entry to the stack, pushing the already saved locations under the new one. The command r (po-pop-location) consumes the top stack element and repositions the cursor to the entry associated with that top element. This position is then lost, for the next r will move the cursor to the previously saved location, and so on until no locations remain on the stack.

If the translator wants the position to be kept on the location stack, maybe for taking a look at the entry associated with the top element, then go elsewhere with the intent of getting back later, she ought to use m immediately after r.

The command x (po-exchange-location) simultaneously repositions the cursor to the entry associated with the top element of the stack of saved locations, and replaces that top element with the location of the current entry before the move. Consequently, repeating the x command toggles alternatively between two entries. For achieving this, the translator will position the cursor on the first entry, use m, then position to the second entry, and merely use x for making the switch.

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