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13.3 Invoking the gettextize Program

The gettextize program is an interactive tool that helps the maintainer of a package internationalized through GNU gettext. It is used for two purposes:

This program performs the following tasks:

It can be invoked as follows:

gettextize [ option… ] [ directory ]

and accepts the following options:


Force replacement of files which already exist.


Specify a directory containing PO files. Such a directory contains the translations into various languages of a particular POT file. This option can be specified multiple times, once for each translation domain. If it is not specified, the directory named po/ is updated.


Don’t update or create ChangeLog files. By default, gettextize logs all changes (file additions, modifications and removals) in a file called ‘ChangeLog’ in each affected directory.

Make symbolic links instead of copying the needed files. This can be useful to save a few kilobytes of disk space, but it requires extra effort to create self-contained tarballs, it may disturb some mechanism the maintainer applies to the sources, and it is likely to introduce bugs when a newer version of gettext is installed on the system.


Print modifications but don’t perform them. All actions that gettextize would normally execute are inhibited and instead only listed on standard output.


Display this help and exit.


Output version information and exit.

If directory is given, this is the top level directory of a package to prepare for using GNU gettext. If not given, it is assumed that the current directory is the top level directory of such a package.

The program gettextize provides the following files. However, no existing file will be replaced unless the option --force (-f) is specified.

  1. The ABOUT-NLS file is copied in the main directory of your package, the one being at the top level. This file contains a reference to the GNU gettext documentation. It also avoids an error from Automake in packages that use the Automake option ‘gnu’ or ‘gnits’: “error: required file ’./ABOUT-NLS’ not found”.
  2. A po/ directory is created for eventually holding all translation files, but initially only containing the file po/ from the GNU gettext distribution (beware the double ‘.in’ in the file name) and a few auxiliary files. If the po/ directory already exists, it will be preserved along with the files it contains, and only and the auxiliary files will be overwritten.

    If ‘--po-dir’ has been specified, this holds for every directory specified through ‘--po-dir’, instead of po/.

  3. The file config.rpath is copied into the directory containing configuration support files. It is needed by the AM_GNU_GETTEXT autoconf macro.
  4. Only if the project is using GNU automake: A set of autoconf macro files is copied into the package’s autoconf macro repository, usually in a directory called m4/.

If your site support symbolic links, gettextize will not actually copy the files into your package, but establish symbolic links instead. This avoids duplicating the disk space needed in all packages. Merely using the ‘-h’ option while creating the tar archive of your distribution will resolve each link by an actual copy in the distribution archive. So, to insist, you really should use ‘-h’ option with tar within your dist goal of your main

Furthermore, gettextize will update all files in each affected directory, as well as the top level or file.

It is interesting to understand that most new files for supporting GNU gettext facilities in one package go in po/ and m4/ subdirectories. Still, these directories will mostly contain package dependent files.

The gettextize program makes backup files for all files it replaces or changes, and also write ChangeLog entries about these changes. This way, the careful maintainer can check after running gettextize whether its changes are acceptable to him, and possibly adjust them. An exception to this rule is the intl/ directory, which is removed as a whole if it still existed.

It is important to understand that gettextize can not do the entire job of adapting a package for using GNU gettext. The amount of remaining work depends on whether the package uses GNU automake or not. But in any case, the maintainer should still read the section Files You Must Create or Alter after invoking gettextize.

In particular, if after using ‘gettexize’, you get an error ‘AC_COMPILE_IFELSE was called before AC_GNU_SOURCE’ or ‘AC_RUN_IFELSE was called before AC_GNU_SOURCE’, you can fix it by modifying, as described in at top level.

It is also important to understand that gettextize is not part of the GNU build system, in the sense that it should not be invoked automatically, and not be invoked by someone who doesn’t assume the responsibilities of a package maintainer. For the latter purpose, a separate tool is provided, see Invoking the autopoint Program.

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