Translation of the GNOME desktop environment

Kjartan Maraas


How do I translate the GNOME desktop to other languages than english? This is a question that pops up quite frequently on the various GNOME mailing-lists and IRC channels. Well, this is a feeble attempt at writing a guide to translating all the different parts of the GNOME desktop environment, and believe me there are a few well hidden files containing translatable strings.

Table of Contents
Menus and .desktop files
Other application specific files of interest


There are different opinons on what is most important when translating. Some think that docs are more important and others think that the interface, menus and dialogs are more important. This is something that the translator must decide for him/herself. I'll try to cover both here. My opinion is that they are both of equal importance, but that the menus and dialogs are the ones the user first meet and so these are what makes the users realize that the apps are really available in their own language. Of course there is nothing stopping you from doing both at once, except time and resources.

There are a few other docs that contain valuable information for a translator such as the gettext documentation and a few guides on the web. Look at GNOME documentation project's doctable for a few pointers to other resources. Also the gettext documentation describes how to set up emacs to work with .po files in what is called po-mode. I recommend that you try this out. I have found it to speed up my own work considerably.