logo Internationalization

Page updated March 14, 2011
Page updated August 19, 2022

BaCon version 1.0.22 introduced internationalization support. This means that we can write programs with automatic insertion of non-English text in the appropriate places, depending on the locale (the language, country, money, date, and other localizations).

The Author would like to thank Peter van Eerten and "L18L", who helped with some teething troubles when writing the first internationalized "Hello World" program. Discussion on the BaCon Forum:


A note to anyone who will want to create a language translation file for an application. Make sure that UTF-8 is enabled for your locale. This is the default these days for all Linux distributions, including EasyOS. In EasyOS, choose "Setup -> QuickSetup" from the menu, and the "UTF-8" checkbox will be ticked.

Hello World CLI example

CLI means CommandLine Interface, that is, an application that does not have a GUI (Graphical User Interface). Here is hello.bac:
REM hello world internationalized
PRINT INTL$("hello world")
PRINT INTL$("some more text")
There are three things that have been done here. Firstly, the INTERNATIONAL argument to the OPTION statement, that must be placed at the beginning of the program, secondly specify output text to be UTF-8, and thirdly the INTL$ function that must be used for any text that needs to be internationalized. Further reading:



1. Now, you compile the program, but you have to use the '-x' parameter:
> bacon -x hello.bac
This compiles the program, but also extracts the translatable text strings. Two files are generated, hello, the binary executable, and hello.pot which has the text strings.

As you can see from the source code, the default text strings are in English; however, we could pretend they are not and define alternative text for the en locale. The same principle will apply to any other locale, for example de for German, fr for French, etc.

2. The next step is to create a .po file for the required locale:
> msginit --locale=en --output-file=en.po --input=hello.pot
Then you edit en.po and insert your alternative text:
# English translations for temp package.
# Copyright (C) 2011 THE temp'S COPYRIGHT HOLDER
# This file is distributed under the same license as the temp package.
# root <root@localhost>, 2011.
msgid ""
msgstr ""
"Project-Id-Version: temp 3\n"
"Report-Msgid-Bugs-To: \n"
"POT-Creation-Date: 2011-03-09 07:40+0800\n"
"PO-Revision-Date: 2011-03-09 07:41+0800\n"
"Last-Translator: root <root@localhost>\n"
"Language-Team: English\n"
"MIME-Version: 1.0\n"
"Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8\n"
"Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit\n"
"Plural-Forms: nplurals=2; plural=(n != 1);\n"

#: hello.bac.c:31
msgid "hello world"
msgstr "Howdi Guys"

#: hello.bac.c:35
msgid "some more text"
msgstr "yadda yadda"
Note above, the Author edited charset=UTF-8. It may default to ASCII or ISO-8859-1, but please always change it to UTF-8. This is necessary to ensure correct translation under all conditions.

3. Finally, you compile and install the translation file:
> mkdir -p /usr/share/locale/en/LC_MESSAGES
> msgfmt --check --output-file=/usr/share/locale/en/LC_MESSAGES/hello.mo en.po
Three simple steps. Now run the program:
> ./hello
Howdi Guys
yadda yadda

What about en_AU, en_CA, en_DK, en_US...

A Linux user sets their system up with a locale such as en_AU, which means English, Australia, or en_CA which is English, Canada, etc. This is because there are different dialects of English in different parts of the world. In the above Hello World example, the Author just specified en translation, which is generic for all English dialects; however, if you want a specific translation for Australian English, this is what you could do:
> msginit --locale=en_AU --output-file=en_AU.po --input=hello.pot
Then edited en_AU.po with suitable Aussie text strings. Then:
> mkdir -p /usr/share/locale/en_AU/LC_MESSAGES
> msgfmt --output-file=/usr/share/locale/en_AU/LC_MESSAGES/hello.mo en_AU.po
Yes, it works:
> ./hello
How ya goin mate
put another prawn on the barby
Note that the generic en translation still works for all other English dialects.

A simple GUI hello world

Here is a simple Hello World GTK GUI application, using HUG (HUG functions are shown in purple text):
REM hello world simple gui app, internationalized
INCLUDE "hug.bac"

mainwin = WINDOW("Internationalized Hello World", 400, 50)

label1=MARK(INTL$("Hello World"),350,15)

REM endless gtk loop...
Following the same steps:
bacon -x hello-gui.bac
msginit --locale=en_US --output-file=en.po --input=hello-gui.pot
msgfmt --output-file=/usr/share/locale/en/LC_MESSAGES/hello-gui.mo en.po
The end result:

hello-gui picture

What you can see from this, is that the person who is maintaining an application written in BaCon, will only have to provide a .pot file and other people can take that and create a .po file for their language and country.

Note that if there is a compiled .mo file that you would like to edit and update, you can un-compile it, which creates a .po file:
> msgunfmt hello.mo

Singular and plural

This is an appropriate web page to mention the issue of text that has to represent singular or plural values. Thanks to "L18L" who showed how to do this. For example, say that you had a variable x in an application representing the number of green bottles. You want to print a message stating how many green bottles. You could do it like this, for the example of quantity 2:

"There is/are two green bottles(s)"

...not very professional!

What you really want is two different messages: "There is one green bottle" or "There are two green bottles".

A problem with internationalization is that the text message may have to be different depending on whether there are quantities of 1, 2, 3, or more. The problem, and solution, is explained in this 'gettext' documentation link:


In BaCon, the NNTL$ function will handle printing of singular and plural forms. For example:

PRINT INTL$("first msg here")
PRINT x FORMAT NNTL$("There is one green bottle","There are %d green bottles",x)
...The x FORMAT is required if you want to substitute the value of x into the strings (in place of %d).

Compile with the -x option, and a .pot file is generated, with this in it:
msgid "There is one green bottle"
msgid_plural "There are %d green bottles"
msgstr[0] ""
msgstr[1] ""
...insert the singular string into msgstr[0] and the plural form into msgstr[1], including the %d as-is. As mentioned, some languages have different text depending on plurality being 2, 3, or more -- read the above documentation links for further information.

Further reading

These are some extra links that you might find useful:
And of course HUG is Highlevel Universal GUI, an easy way to write GUI applications in BaCON. Here is a simple application using HUG:


Copyright Barry Kauler 2011,2022 bkhome.org All rights reserved.
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copyright Peter van Eerten, used with permission.