Usage: msgfmt [option] filename.po ...
msgstrstrings are studied and compared. It is considered abnormal that one string starts or ends with a newline while the other does not. Also, both strings should have the same number of `%' format specifiers, with matching types. For example, the check will diagnose using `%.*s' against `%s', or `%d' against `%s', or `%d' against `%x'. It can even handle positional parameters.
If input file is `-', standard input is read. If output file is `-', output is written to standard output.
The search patch for
msgfmt is `/usr/local/share/nls/src/',
by default. It represents the path to additional directories where
other PO files can be found. This feature could be used for some
PO files for standard libraries, in case we would like to spare
translating their strings over and over again. The `-x' option
could then exclude these strings from the generation.
The format of the generated MO files is best described by a picture, which appears below.
The first two words serve the identification of the file. The magic
number will always signal GNU MO files. The number is stored in the
byte order of the generating machine, so the magic number really is
0xde120495. The second
word describes the current revision of the file format. For now the
revision is 0. This might change in future versions, and ensures
that the readers of MO files can distinguish new formats from old
ones, so that both can be handled correctly. The version is kept
separate from the magic number, instead of using different magic
numbers for different formats, mainly because `/etc/magic' is
not updated often. It might be better to have magic separated from
internal format version identification.
Follow a number of pointers to later tables in the file, allowing for the extension of the prefix part of MO files without having to recompile programs reading them. This might become useful for later inserting a few flag bits, indication about the charset used, new tables, or other things.
Then, at offset O and offset T in the picture, two tables of string descriptors can be found. In both tables, each string descriptor uses two 32 bits integers, one for the string length, another for the offset of the string in the MO file, counting in bytes from the start of the file. The first table contains descriptors for the original strings, and is sorted so the original strings are in increasing lexicographical order. The second table contains descriptors for the translated strings, and is parallel to the first table: to find the corresponding translation one has to access the array slot in the second array with the same index.
Having the original strings sorted enables the use of simple binary
search, for when the MO file does not contain an hashing table, or
for when it is not practical to use the hashing table provided in
the MO file. This also has another advantage, as the empty string
in a PO file GNU
gettext is usually translated into
some system information attached to that particular MO file, and the
empty string necessarily becomes the first in both the original and
translated tables, making the system information very easy to find.
The size S of the hash table can be zero. In this case, the
hash table itself is not contained in the MO file. Some people might
prefer this because a precomputed hashing table takes disk space, and
does not win that much speed. The hash table contains indices
to the sorted array of strings in the MO file. Conflict resolution is
done by double hashing. The precise hashing algorithm used is fairly
dependent of GNU
gettext code, and is not documented here.
As for the strings themselves, they follow the hash file, and each
is terminated with a NUL, and this NUL is not counted in
the length which appears in the string descriptor. The
program has an option selecting the alignment for MO file strings.
With this option, each string is separately aligned so it starts at
an offset which is a multiple of the alignment value. On some RISC
machines, a correct alignment will speed things up.
Nothing prevents an MO file from having embedded NULs in strings. However, the program interface currently used already presumes that strings are NUL terminated, so embedded NULs are somewhat useless. But MO file format is general enough so other interfaces would be later possible, if for example, we ever want to implement wide characters right in MO files, where NUL bytes may accidently appear.
This particular issue has been strongly debated in the GNU
gettext development forum, and it is expectable that MO file
format will evolve or change over time. It is even possible that many
formats may later be supported concurrently. But surely, we got to
start somewhere, and the MO file format described here is a good start.
Nothing is cast in concrete, and the format may later evolve fairly
easily, so we should feel comfortable with the current approach.
byte +------------------------------------------+ 0 | magic number = 0x950412de | | | 4 | file format revision = 0 | | | 8 | number of strings | == N | | 12 | offset of table with original strings | == O | | 16 | offset of table with translation strings | == T | | 20 | size of hashing table | == S | | 24 | offset of hashing table | == H | | . . . (possibly more entries later) . . . | | O | length & offset 0th string ----------------. O + 8 | length & offset 1st string ------------------. ... ... | | O + ((N-1)*8)| length & offset (N-1)th string | | | | | | | T | length & offset 0th translation ---------------. T + 8 | length & offset 1st translation -----------------. ... ... | | | | T + ((N-1)*8)| length & offset (N-1)th translation | | | | | | | | | | | H | start hash table | | | | | ... ... | | | | H + S * 4 | end hash table | | | | | | | | | | | | NUL terminated 0th string <----------------' | | | | | | | | | NUL terminated 1st string <------------------' | | | | | | ... ... | | | | | | | NUL terminated 0th translation <---------------' | | | | | NUL terminated 1st translation <-----------------' | | ... ... | | +------------------------------------------+
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