Translating Gramps

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Tips for translators of the Gramps program.

The page coding for translation may also be of interest to translators.

Please read A Translators Guide to Git

Gettext file format


msginit is a GNU utility, called on /po directory, which generates a header for gettext file template : gramps.pot.

"Project-Id-Version: PACKAGE VERSION\n"
"Report-Msgid-Bugs-To: \n"
"POT-Creation-Date: 2004-12-30 10:52-0500\n"
"PO-Revision-Date: YEAR-MO-DA HO:MI+ZONE\n"
"Last-Translator: FULL NAME <EMAIL@ADDRESS>\n"
"Language-Team: LANGUAGE <[email protected]>\n"
"MIME-Version: 1.0\n"
"Content-Type: text/plain; charset=CHARSET\n"
"Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit\n"
"Plural-Forms: nplurals=2; plural=(n != 1);\n"
  • Project-Id-Version : this is the name and version of the package. Fill it in if it has not already been filled in by xgettext.
  • Report-Msgid-Bugs-To : this has already been filled in by xgettext. It contains an email address or URL where you can report bugs in the untranslated strings:
    • Strings which are not entire sentences, see the maintainer guidelines in Preparing Strings.
    • Strings which use unclear terms or require additional context to be understood.
    • Strings which make invalid assumptions about notation of date, time or money.
    • Pluralisation problems.
    • Incorrect English spelling.
    • Incorrect formatting.
  • POT-Creation-Date : this has already been filled in by xgettext.
  • PO-Revision-Date : You don't need to fill this in. It will be filled by the PO file editor when you save the file.
  • Last-Translator : fill in your name and email address (without double quotes).
  • Language-Team : fill in the English name of the language, and the email address or homepage URL of the language team you are part of. Before starting a translation, it is a good idea to get in touch with your translation team, not only to make sure you don't do duplicated work, but also to coordinate difficult linguistic issues. In the Free Translation Project, each translation team has its own mailing list. The up-to-date list of teams can be found at the Free Translation Project's homepage, in the "Teams" area.

msgid / msgstr / comment / fuzzy

#, fuzzy
msgid "File not found"
msgstr ""
  • text after # provides a comment.
    • The file reference and the line number after #:
    • A comment on code or the main string (msgid) after #.
    • A comment on your translation (msgstr) after #

This will help translator but is optional for having a translation.

  • #, fuzzy could be added because string is not up-to-date. It means that there was a change somewhere (a string has been added, removed or modified) and xgettext did a guess on what the translation should be. This guess is most likely not entirely correct, but it is often very close.

fuzzy strings are ignored, english string (msgid) will be used ! Need to correct/validate entry on your translation editor.

  • msgid is the string, present on gramps' code
  • msgstr is your translation string

Tips for translators

Getting started

  1. Always save your translations in UTF-8 encoding without BOM (take care with NotePad)
  2. Don't overwrite the English strings, your translation should be below the original string
  3. Take heed on special characters. You must have the same number of and types as the original string.
  4. Verify spelling and grammar on your translation.
  5. Don't translate "too freely". Your translation should be as close match to the original as possible
  6. Be consistent with your translations. If you decide on a specific word/phrase for something, stick to that throughout the translation.
  7. If possible, try the translation before sending

Translating Gramps into a new language means translating English strings used in the Gramps interface. To put it shortly, this amounts to

  1. obtaining the gramps.pot file with the strings to be translated,
  2. translating the strings in the template, and
  3. getting the translated file uploaded into the Gramps Git repository.

Another avenue of translation is translating the documentation. This is a different and lengthy process and it is described in our Translating the Gramps User manual page. Here we will concentrate on the interface translation only.

Obtaining gramps.pot

You can also download files by browsing via GitHub web interface.

  • Look for gramps.pot in the po directory.

Translating messages

  • Copy gramps.pot to the file named lang.po, according to the language you are translating into (fr.po for French, ru.po for Russian, etc.)
  • Use GTtranslator (GNOME, windows), KBabel (KDE), Lokalize (KDE, windows), Emacs po-mode, Virtaal (GNU/Linux, Mac, windows), poedit (GNU/Linux, OSX, windows), or any similar tool designed for translating .po files. If you do not like any of these tools, you can use any text editor to translate messages. If using vim, properly setting the "langmap" option will significantly speed up your work.
  • Even though Gramps uses UNICODE (UTF-8) for its character set, you may use your native character set for your translation. Just make sure you specify the character set you are using in the Content-Type line in the .po file. Gramps will handle the conversion to UNICODE.
  • If there are non ASCII characters in the original English string, try to preserve them by copying them, if applicable.


As an extension to standard gettext, strings in Gramps can have a context prefix. This prefix should not be translated, and just be deleted in the translation. More info and an example further down.

As a special context, you will see the manual context, e.g., :


these strings should only be translated if a wiki user manual is available in your language, e.g., in Dutch :


The string refers to a section, e.g., Editing_Dates in Dutch becomes Datums_aanpassen.

Testing your .po file

Environment change

For Gramps 4.0, 52 and master, see new environment.

In the po directory run the command:


If there are errors in your po file, this will fail and give you an error message. You should correct these errors. If you have trouble understanding the error, try to run the next test, which might give a more verbose output.


In the po directory run the command:

./check_po --skip-fuzzy lang.po 


python check_po --skip-fuzzy lang.po > lang

where lang is your language code. This will give you errors in your translation, information on badly translated phrases, ... the output could resemble something like this..

File:               nl.po
Template total:     3816
PO total:           3671
Fuzzy:              125
Untranslated:       12
%s mismatches:      0
%d mismatches:      2
%() name mismatches:9
%() missing s/d:    0
Runaway context:    0
XML special chars:  0
Last character:     15
Shortcut in msgstr: 16
PO Coverage:        99.67%
Template Coverage:  95.89%
Localized at:       97% (previous gramps.pot)

If you get previous gramps.pot, then you are not using the last gramps.pot, see update your translation. fuzzy and untranslated strings will be ignored, Gramps will use main strings in english.

-------- %d mismatches --------------

You can see that there are 3816 strings to be translated and the coverage is around 96 %. There are still 12 untranslated strings and some 120 fuzzies. The last one can be ok, but should be checked. Additional information shows e.g., that in 15 strings there is a mismatch with the 'last character':

-------- last character not identical ---------
msg nr: 98, lineno: 602
msgid "Could not make database directory: "
msgstr "Kon geen gegevensbestandsmap aanmaken"

This is very valuable information, because you can easily see what the problem is, even if you do not understand the language! Clearly the last characters must be ": "


In the po directory run the command:

msgfmt --statistics lang.po


msgfmt.exe --statistics lang.po

where lang is your language code. This should not throw an error.

Basically this gives the same info in a condensed format: 3533 translated messages, 125 fuzzy translations, 12 untranslated messages.

GNU `gettext' utilities

GNU `gettext' utilities provides a few stand-alone programs to massage in various ways the sets of translatable strings, or already translated strings:

msgattrib - attribute matching and manipulation on message catalog
msgcat - combines several message catalogs
msgcmp - compare message catalog and template
msgcomm - match two message catalogs
msgconv - character set conversion for message catalog
msgen - create English message catalog
msgexec - process translations of message catalog
msgfilter - edit translations of message catalog
msgfmt - compile message catalog to binary format (.po->.mo)
msggrep - pattern matching on message catalog
msginit - initialize a message catalog
msgmerge - merge message catalog and template
msgunfmt - uncompile message catalog from binary format
msguniq - unify duplicate translations in message catalog

For checking syntax (header, format, domain) :

msgfmt -c nl.po
msgfmt.exe -c nl.po

For checking keyboard accelerators (underscore) :

msgfmt --check-accelerators=_ nl.po
msgfmt.exe --check-accelerators=_ nl.po

Gettext lint

Gettext lint is a collection of tools for checking the validity, consistency and spelling of PO. Some python scripts do not work anymore with last expat version.

Pology (KDE)

Pology is a Python library and collection of command-line tools for in-depth processing of PO files, the translation file format of the GNU Gettext software translation system. Pology functionality ranges from precision operations on individual PO messages, to cross-file operations on large collections of PO files. Pology is used by the KDE translation teams for checking syntax.

Translate Toolkit

Translate Toolkit is a collection of useful tools for localisation. It can help to improve the quality of your localisation, including tools to help check, validate, merge and extract messages from your localizations.

Save as .mo file

If possible and when you are finished translating, go to File -> Save as... to generate a .mo file for testing syntax.

  • Under poedit, you can set to always compile a .mo file when saving changes by clicking File -> Preferences and on the Editor tab check the Automatically compile .mo file on save box. A dialog will warn you if there is a syntax error on your .po file.
  • Lokalize, GTranslator also provide a syntax check when saving. If an error occured we can navigate to messages which contain errors.

Please, enable this feature to avoid errors on compilation process.

Formatting (compiling) .po file

Send your contribution

Check it into Git if you obtained the permission to do so.

The following configuration option simplifies pushing a branch back to the server:

$ git config --global push.default upstream

Otherwise you can fork gramps repository with a Github account and pull a merge request.


Updating your translation

If you have submitted a translation, it may well be that after some weeks/months, new strings are added to Gramps, implying you need to update your translation file.

Assuming you have obtained originally the Gramps source tree as explained in Brief introduction to Git. Now:

  • Update your Gramps tree from Git. This can be done by executing the command
    git pull --rebase
    from the root Gramps directory. This will download an updated gramps.pot file.
  • Use your outdated translation to translate the strings that did not change:
    msgmerge lang.po gramps.pot -o newlang.po
    msgmerge --no-wrap lang.po gramps.pot -o newlang.po
    where lang is your language code. The --no-wrap option will prevent changes due to automatic word wrapping, use it if your previous po file was constructed like that. The --no-wrap options allows for more readable Git diffs.
  • Check fuzzy messages and translate all untranslated messages in newlang.po. When you are sure everything is right, rename newlang.po as lang.po and check it into Git as you did with the original file.
  • If command msgmerge is not available on your system, you have to install the gettext package. For windows users.
  • To back-port translations, e.g., to merge master branch translations onto an earlier branch, do this on the earlier branch (assuming gramps.pot is updated):
msgmerge -C lang.po master-lang.po gramps.pot -o newlang.po

. Then resolve the fuzzies as usual.

There is also the make target that does the following:

  • Create new gramps.pot template from the source code files
  cd po
  ./ or python -p see differences between tools.
  • Updates each po file in the source tree

It may be an overkill for you, but if you feel like using it, you can run:

  cd po
  python update_po -m all  

in the po directory. This assumes that you have already successfully configured the source. Note, this command ignores --no-wrap option, so not practical for Git diffs.

Environment change

For Gramps 4.0, 52 and master, see new environment.

Testing your update

You can test your update easily with the above mentioned check_po file. If you downloaded this file, just do:

python check_po --skip-fuzzy newlang.po

If everything is ok, the output will be something like this:

File:               newlang.po
Template total:     3075
PO total:           3075
Fuzzy:              0
Untranslated:       0
%s mismatches:      0
%d mismatches:      0
%() name mismatches:0
%() missing s/d:    0
Runaway context:    0
XML special chars:  0
Last character:     0
Shortcut in msgstr: 0
PO Coverage:        100.00%
Template Coverage:  100.00%

Installing your translation

Environment change

For Gramps 4.0, 52 and master, see new environment.

You want to use the new translation immediately, and systemwide? You can by installing just the contents of the po directory, but you will need to build the source first, so:

cd po
make --prefix=/usr install     #as root !

This should install your translations to /usr/share/locale/{lang}/LC_MESSAGES/, with {lang} being your language. You could of course copy your files manually to that dir with the name.

Make sure you only install from within the po directory, or you will install the development version of Gramps, which is not supported and for testing only!

Running the master branch with your translation

The i18n data are often under ../share/locale according to the default prefix.

So you can use:

python build
python install     #as root !

This will install the .mo files under ../share/locale/xx/LC_MESSAGES, according to the default prefix set.


python build
python install --root=/home/joe/gramps
                        --enable-packager-mode     #as simple user !

This will install Gramps and translations under your /home/... directory.

$GRAMPSI18N (for your locale)

Actually you don't even need to install the files in order to test them. This is useful because you can develop Gramps without needing superuser privileges. Bear in mind the Gramps i18n process goes something like this when you use the master branch:

  • when you type python build in the source tree root (/home/user/Gramps e.g.) all the po/*.po files are compiled into build/mo/{lang}/*.mo files.
  • when you type python install inside the po directory, these .mo files are copied to {prefix}/share/locale/{lang}/LC_MESSAGES as files.

But you can change the place where Gramps looks for these files by altering the environment variable $GRAMPSI18N. So you could also for instance do something like this and avoid the python setup install step: (if you are using csh or tcsh the syntax would be a little different)

 [user@localhost /home/user/Gramps]$ mkdir -p po/en_GB/LC_MESSAGES
 [user@localhost /home/user/Gramps]$ cp po/ po/en_GB/LC_MESSAGES/
 [user@localhost /home/user/Gramps]$ cd gramps
 [user@localhost /home/user/Gramps/src]$ GRAMPSI18N=$PWD/../po LANG=en_GB.UTF-8 python

On a gramps launcher (copy from {prefix}/bin/gramps) you can set :

export GRAMPSDIR=/...
export GRAMPSI18N=/...

Where the environment variable $GRAMPSDIR is the path to your gramps directory.

Where the environment variable $GRAMPSI18N is the path to your gramps locale directory.

Just testing your translation

If you don't want to compile all translations, you may save your .po file as .mo file, or use msgfmt utility on /po directory:

msgfmt -o your_lang.po
msgfmt.exe -o your_lang.po

this will create a file, a compiled version of your .po file. Put it on your translation path (see above).

Hard to translate phrases

Some things are just hard to translate. Below are a few of the more difficult items, along with some suggestions on how to handle them.

Gramps terminology

There are terms with special significance in computer software. The terms are often creatively awkward constructs in English... just so the term is more unique and stands out in a sentence. Translating the words literally or substituting a translation of the underlying concept may not be workable. It may be necessary to become creative and substitute a similarly awkward (and short!) label in your target language.

The labels of some Gramps core concepts or interface elements hold that higher level of significance. These must be translated consistently between the User Interface and the Wiki. (Inconsistent translations will confuse the users.)

Example: The Active Person in Gramps is not a person with a healthy amount of vigorous physical exercise. Instead, it is the record from the People Category that is the focal center of reference for display & change. Neither would translate into a memorable label.

The Gramps Glossary is a good resource for understanding the context and significance of such terms. If you translate the Glossary and then alphabetize the translated terms, also leave an ID SPAN with the untranslated English term. This allows hotlinks from untranslated pages to work in unison with translated hotlinks.

If it becomes necessary to be creative translating a term, please add a language specific reference page for your language. This helps other Translators share your style of creativity.

LDS terminology

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (a.k.a. Mormons) maintains a lot of genealogy data. In the United States, they are probably the non-government organization with the most detailed records available. Genealogical research is important to the Mormon church. They are responsible for defining the GEDCOM format.

The LDS Church has some specific terminology that can present difficulty in translating. There are two approaches to handling the information.

  1. If the LDS Church has a presence in your country, contact the LDS Temple in your area and ask them what the correct terminology is in your native language
  2. If the LDS Church does not have a presence in your country, it would probably be safe to simply not translate the phrases.

These terms include:

  1. LDS Ordinance names:
    • Sealed to Parents
    • Sealed to Spouse
    • LDS Baptism
    • Endowment
  2. LDS Status names for Ordinances:
    • Child
    • Cleared
    • Completed
    • Infant
    • Pre-1970
    • Qualified
    • Stillborn
    • Submitted
    • Uncleared
    • BIC (Born In the Covenant)
    • DNS (Do Not Submit)
    • Canceled
    • DNS/CAN (Do Not Submit/Previous sealing cancelled)

Advanced issues

Format line parameters

Format line parameters such as %s and %d should not be translated. The order of these parameters should not be changed. Examples:


   Long widowhood: %s was a widow %d years.

Translation (using Backward English as an example :-):

   Gnol doohwodiw: %s saw a wodiw %d sraey.

Named format line parameters such as %(something)s and %(something)d also should not be translated. Feel free to change the order of named parameters to correctly phrase the message in your language. Also, use hints provided by the names. Examples:


   Baptized before birth: %(male_name)s
           born %(byear)d, baptized %(bapyear)d.

Translation into Backward English:

   Dezitpab erofeb htrib: %(byear)d
           nrob %(male_name)s, dezitpab %(bapyear)d.

In the above example, the verb "born" should be in masculine form (if verbs in your language have gender, that is), since the person born is apparently a male.

Sometimes those %(something)s are positioned in a text without spaces, like in the example below:


   This person was baptised%(endnotes)s.

Translation into Backward English:

   Siht nosrep saw desitpab%(endnotes)s.

Translation context

In some cases, two different concepts can be expressed by the same word in English and yet require different translations. For example, the title of the book and the nobility title of the person are expressed by the same Title word. However, in other languages different words are needed to describe the book title and the person's title.

To mitigate such problems, a context can be added to the translation string. A context-enabled string has a vertical line separating the context from the string:


The correct translation should not include either the context or the separator. The context is to give the translator idea of what the string means. However, both the context and the separator must not be in the translated string, so in backward english the above is translated into


If you are a Gramps translator and need a developer to help you add a context to the Gramps source files, please ask for it on the gramps-devel list.

Translation context in GUI labels

If there is a string in the Glade GUI (i.e., in a .glade source file) that requires the translation context, it's impossible to have it translated statically. In this case, one needs to add runtime code to the corresponding dialog initialization to override the label string with the text obtained with an sgettext call. I.e.,

  • Verify the relevant widget has a meaningful id in the .glade file (as opposed to a silly autogenerated one). Modify the id if needed and make sure no existing code used the old widget id! e.g., change
<object class="GtkLabel" id="label3">
<object class="GtkLabel" id="place_name_label">
  • Add a context to the translatable string in the .glade file. This way, when you look at the POT file or a PO file derived from it, you see a reference to this place, along with the actual place in the .py file(s) which also has the same context string. e.g., change
<property name="label" translatable="yes">Name:</property>
<property name="label" translatable="yes">place|Name:</property>
  • In the corresponding dialog initialization, add code to set the string to the correct translation during runtime, e.g.,:
globally in the file:
PLACE_NAME = _('place|Name:')
in the MergePlace.__init__ method:
       for widget_name in ('name_btn1', 'name_btn2'):
The exact method to call on the Gtk control will be different based on the actual GUI element affected. e.g., a GtkButton has a set_label method, whereas a GtkLabel has a set_text.
  • Regenerate the POT, translate the new PO strings, and test your work.

Plural forms

There was requests for plural forms support.

First, translators need to check if information is available on .po header :"Plural-Forms:\n". (See samples)

  1. msgid contains the singular string in english
  2. msgid_plural contains the plural string in english
  3. msgstr[0] contains the singular translated version (for 1 and sometimes 0, set on header)
  4. msgstr[1] contains the plural version (for 1 + 1 = 2 )
  5. msgstr[2] contains the plural form (for 2 + 1 = 3)
  • For language with one form (singular=plural, Plural-Forms: nplurals=1; plural=0), like Chinese, Hungarian or Turkish:
msgid "%d second"
msgid_plural "%d seconds"
msgstr [0] "%d 秒"
  • For language with one plural form (Plural-Forms: nplurals=2; plural=n != 1;), like english:
msgid "%d hour"
msgid_plural "%d hours"
msgstr [0] "%d hour"
msgstr [1] "%d hours"
  • For language with more plural forms (like Czech):
msgid "%d second"
msgid_plural "%d seconds"
msgstr [0] "%d sekunda"
msgstr [1] "%d sekundy"
msgstr [2] "%d sekund"

As a final check, please do ensure that the following command does not throw any errors:

msgfmt -c filename.po

Translating mnemonics keys(Keyboard Shortcut keys)

Mnemonics are accelerator keys (also known as Keyboard Shortcut keys) you find in labels, accessible by pressing the ALT key together with the mnemonic. You see then in the translated text with a low line, e.g., '_Help' is shown as 'Help' with an underline under the H, and can be put to focus/selected by pressing ALT+h.

It is nice if mnemonics on a screen are unique, but it is not required. If you use twice the same mnemonic, the user must press repeatedly the accelerator to switch between the different entries. However, note the following rule:

  • "If duplication of access keys in a window is unavoidable, you should still refrain from duplicating the access keys for any of these buttons that appear in the same window: OK, Cancel, Close, Apply or Help."

So you should check in your language what the mnemonic key is for those buttons, and avoid using the same in translated text


Some fonts family will not properly display mnemonics on "g", "j", "p", "q" or "y" as these print the letter over the line under it making it very hard to distinguish the small line. Please avoid to use mnemonics key bindings on these letters. Also try to avoid i and l, as people have difficulty distinguishing between those.

Capital letters are no problem though, underlining e.g., G will work just fine as the letter does not write over the line.

Translating relationships

Translating relationships is not done within the .po files, except for occasional father and mother strings here and there in the interfaces and reports. Complete translation of all relationships for the language/culture is done inside a relationship calculator plugin.

In short, the need for a plugin comes from the impossibility to translate "first cousin twice removed" in languages such as, e.g., German or Russian. See the Relationship Calculator page for details on why and how to create such a plugin.

Translating dates

Handling date translation is not entirely done within the .po files. Complete handling of date translation for each language/culture is done inside a dedicated date handler module.

The need for a separate module comes from the requirements to handle culture-specific parsing and displaying of dates. For example, the month and day order is different between most European countries and the US. Also, each language has its own set of acceptable modifier and qualifiers for the date: things like "from X to Y" or "between X and Y" may have different word order. Same with "around", "calculated", "estimated". Add to this calendar names, and you have a compelling need for a dedicated module. See the Date Handler page for details on why and how to create such a module.

Translating man pages

Environment change

For gramps 4.0, 52 and master, see new environment.

You can also translated the man pages into your own language.

For the development version (master branch) you can find the required starting files under the directory data/man. You will find the files


First off all you must make a directory for your language under data/man.

cd data/man

and do

mkdir xx

where xx is your languagecode (fr for French, sv for Swedish, etc.) You should use Git. See the introduction to Git.

Next step is to copy the and from data/man to your new directory. Translate all relevant strings in the data/man/xx/ file. Change the file data/man/xx/

  • add the line mandir = @mandir@/xx
  • change the line && CONFIG_FILES=data/man/xx/$@ $(SHELL)

Next step: change the file data/man/Makefile:

  • add xx to the line SUBDIRS = fr nl sv

The final step is to alter the file :

  • add data/man/xx/Makefile to the line AC_CONFIG_FILES([

All changes must be committed and pushed to the server:

git commit -am "Add man page for xx"
git push

You should see no errors when you run the



This last step must be done only in the data/man/xx directory. If not, your normal gramps installation will be overwritten. And this step must be done as superuser(su)

sudo make install

This will put the gramps.1.gz file into /usr/local/share/man/xx/man1 directory. You could also use a prefix. Then you do:

sudo make --prefix=/usr/share install

To see the result of your work, do:

man -L xx gramps

Translating wiki manual

To enable the weblink for help when pressing the F1 button in the Gramps program, you need to have or edit the MANUALS variable to contain your language code locale in the: file for Gramp 4.x or greater

or file for Gramps 3.x or earlier

On approximately line 41 of that file, you may see:

#list of manuals on wiki, map locale code to wiki extension, add language codes
#completely, or first part, so pt_BR if Brazilian portugeze wiki manual, and
#nl for Dutch (nl_BE, nl_NL language code)
   'nl' : '/nl',

These entries map a language code to the extension used on the wiki, so to add french, change this too:

   'nl' : '/nl',
   'fr':  '/fr',
  • Every 'manual|...' entry in the gramp.pot file refers to a section in the manual, so make sure to use good section headings so this does not change too much over time.

Note that reports/tools link to a section in the page with the same name as the report name in Gramps.

  • You should be able to edit directly on wiki or using tools like txt2po or po4a. Also previous gettext file for the manual and Translation Memory may help you to upgrade deprecated/old gettext files. e.g., store existing entries from /usr/share/locale.

Language specific pages

Check out the pages which cover some aspects of translation into a specific language, such as the glossary.

Translating addon plugins