Translation information

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This page gathers useful information about translation.

Links and docs

PO translation files

Add a new translation file

If the PO file for your language does not exist yet, then you must create it as a copy of the translation template. This template is a file whose name ends with .pot. It contains the strings to translate without any translation. Create a copy and put it to the right place (just see how other languages are managed).

Tools for translators

You can edit PO files from any plain text editor, since they are simple text files. However, many useful tools have been developed to provide a simple experience translating PO files.


You might also try:

  • Emacs's po-mode (contained in the gettext distribution; the version in po-utils is old);
  • gedit — text editor for GNOME desktops, has a syntax highlight mode for PO file syntax;
  • Virtaal — cross-platform PO editor that is clean, simple to use yet powerful;
  • Gtranslator (GNOME).

And last but not least, gettext utils, which are installed on every Linux distribution. You can see a complete reference too from installed info pages by running the command:

info gettext

Update a translation file

If a translation file is already present for your language but the programmers have updated the template (.pot) since the translation was done, you need to sync the PO file with the template, especially for the new strings being added, but also for other info: position of the original string in the project, removing or marking obsolete strings, recognizing small string modifications…

Some software offers the ability to automatically sync the translation file with the template, e.g. with Poedit you can use the menu option ‘Catalog > Update from POT file…’.

GNU gettext also provides the command msgmerge. You can use it like this to update lt.po from inkscape.pot:

msgmerge -U lt.po inkscape.pot

File format

If you open a PO file with a text editor for the first time, you will find its syntax very simple. The PO format is a really simple format, which probably at least partly explains its success and widespread use. The format is basically a hash list consisting of msgid and msgstr pairs, with the msgid being the original English string and key, and the msgstr being the translated value of it. Below is an example of a message.

#: gedit/dialogs/gedit-plugin-program-location-dialog.c:78
#: gedit/dialogs/program-location-dialog.glade2.h:2
msgid "Set program location..."
msgstr "Ställ in programplats..."

In addition to the msgid and msgstr parts, a message usually also has lines starting with #: that tell what source files and what lines the string used as msgid was extracted from. These lines have no syntactic value. They are only there as a help for translators and developers to know where a message came from.

A message in a PO file can be in one of essentially three different states. The message can be translated, fuzzy, or untranslated. A message counts as translated as soon as the msgstr part of it is non-empty. In a similar manner, an untranslated message is one where the msgstr is empty. The fuzzy state is special and essentially means that there is a translation in the msgstr part, but that this translation is most likely not entirely correct, and that it thus needs manual attention by a translator. A message can become fuzzy in one of two ways:

  • The original string that the msgid represents was changed in the source code. A typo in the string may have been fixed or the string altered in some other way. The translator needs to check that the msgstr is still valid and make changes if necessary.
  • A new string has been added to the source, and the string is similar (but not identical) to the msgid of an already existing, translated message. Then the msgstr of that message will be automatically reused for the new message, but the new message will also at the same time be marked fuzzy so that the translator knows there is some difference that he or she needs to adapt the translation to match.

A few important things to remember

  • Some strings that can be ambiguous or having several meanings according to different contexts may have a context prefix: ‘Context|Ambiguous string’. In this case, give the translation for ‘Ambiguous string’ only; the ‘Context|’ part is just a not to translate indication.
  • After translating a fuzzy string (one that is marked with a ", fuzzy" comment), please remove its fuzzy tag — otherwise this translation will be discarded by the build process, meaning that this string will show up untranslated.
  • Before publishing your work (after you have finished updating the PO file), please update the "PO-Revision-Date" and "Last-Translator" fields in the PO file header.

If you use a translation software, it may deal with the last two points for you automatically (check the settings).


Before submitting your file to the project, you should make sure it is valid.

  • Make sure the file is encoded in UTF-8.
  • Make sure it is a valid PO file and obtain some statistics about it: simply run msgfmt --statistics -cv translation_file.po from a command window.
  • Make sure it is correctly formatted: run check-markup translation_file.po from a command window and verify it doesn't output any error message. The ‘check-markup’ Perl script can be found in the /po directory of Inkscape trunk.

If your translation software can compile PO files to .mo, it should detect any errors when you save your translations so you don't need to do any further verifications.


There is always one special message in each valid PO file: the PO file header. It is encoded with the msgid for the empty string ("") as the key, and the actual header values are in the msgstr part. This unfortunately means that if you mark an empty string for translation, you will get the entire PO file header back as the ‘translation’. In almost all cases this is probably not what you want. Hence, do not mark empty strings for translation.

Please make sure you use dgettext for any pluralized strings.

See also how to disambiguate a string.

Submit finished work

After you translated a file there are three possible means to submit it (the third is preferred as it allows to review the changes easily). These allow to discuss your work and gather relevant information at a dedicated place; they also require you to have an account, please see links below.

  • Simply send your file to Inkscape's translators mailing list.
  • Upload your file via the bug tracker for the proper repository: Inkscape interface and documentation, website.
    Open a new bug report titled ‘Translation to <your language>’ and attach the files you created or modified to it.
  • Create a merge request on GitLab (Inkscape interface, documentation, website):
    1. Visit the repository on GitLab, and click on 'Fork' to create your own, independent repository.
    2. Make your changes to the code. There are two possibilities:
      • Edit the files directly in your repository on the GitLab website via the provided web UI. (no prior knowledge required)
      • Download the code to you computer to work with it locally and re-upload it later. (some Git knowledge required)
      Checkout the fork's code to you computer:
      git clone<your_username>/<repository-name>
      Replace the previous file for your language with your new file in the directory. If there is no previous file, put your file into the right place. Tell the system it must take care of your added/changed file with:
      git add /path/to/your-file.po
      Commit your changes to your own repository (put the correct information instead of the <placeholders>):
      git commit -m "Translated <file> for <language>, <xx>% complete
      git push
    3. Visit your repository on the GitLab website, go to 'Merge requests' and make a new merge request, asking for your work to be reviewed and included in the main ('master') branch.

Many thanks for your work!


This is the start of a list of places to get translation reviews done. So far: