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The GNU C Library

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Since the X/Open format of the message catalog files does not allow symbol names we have to work with numbers all the time. When we start writing a program we have to replace all appearances of translatable strings with something like

catgets (catdesc, set, msg, "string")

catgets is retrieved from a call to catopen which is normally done once at the program start. The "string" is the string we want to translate. The problems start with the set and message numbers.

In a bigger program several programmers usually work at the same time on the program and so coordinating the number allocation is crucial. Though no two different strings must be indexed by the same tuple of numbers it is highly desirable to reuse the numbers for equal strings with equal translations (please note that there might be strings which are equal in one language but have different translations due to difference contexts).

The allocation process can be relaxed a bit by different set numbers for different parts of the program. So the number of developers who have to coordinate the allocation can be reduced. But still lists must be keep track of the allocation and errors can easily happen. These errors cannot be discovered by the compiler or the catgets functions. Only the user of the program might see wrong messages printed. In the worst cases the messages are so irritating that they cannot be recognized as wrong. Think about the translations for "true" and "false" being exchanged. This could result in a disaster.

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