installing GNU gettext for use with Python on OS X
I’ve been working on my blog post about Python’s gettext module for
the past couple of mornings, and ran into a snag. The documentation
claims that the Python source distribution includes all the tools
you’ll need, but when I got to the point where I wanted to write
examples of internationalizing plural strings,
It worked great for extracting individual string messages up to that
point, but refused to extract messages wrapped in the
call, even when I used what seemed to be the appropriate command line
options. I ended up installing the GNU gettext tools and using
xgettext instead. Installation took me longer than I expected, so
I’m documenting the process I went through here.
Fink or MacPorts: Not so much.
Since OS X doesn’t ship with a version of gettext by default, and there doesn’t seem to be one in the Xcode package (Apple has their own internationalization tools), I needed to find a copy elsewhere.
Ages ago I had installed fink as an
“easy” way to grab copies of these sorts of utilities. However, it
seems that somewhere along the line the version of fink I have stopped
working (probably due to upgrading to 10.5, I haven’t tried using fink
or FinkCommander directly in some time). After wiping and
reinstalling, I was pleased to find a slightly old version (0.14.5) of
gettext installed as part of the default set of
xgettext wasn’t included in the package at
Next, I grabbed a copy of MacPorts, a
competitor to fink. Although I’ve been warned off of MacPorts by a few
people I trust, others have had no problems with it. Installation was
fairly easy, and as with fink it installed everything to its own
directory tree (under
/opt/local). Once I had the port program
installed, the next step was to run:
$ sudo port install gettext
It downloaded several dependencies, patched the source, compiled everything, and installed it. Voila! Well, not so much.
Even though the most current version of gettext (0.17) was installed, and the documentation clearly described the included Python language support, the binary refused to recognize any language other than C.
Compiling from Source: Partial Success
Since MacPorts had to download the package and compile it anyway, I decided to go ahead and do that on my own. I was a little wary because I wasn’t exactly sure what port was doing in its “patching” step, but I thought I would give it a try anyway. I snagged the most recent tarball from the gettext site and ran the usual
That gave me a binary for
xgettext inside the source directory, and
testing it against my Python source yielded the results I wanted. A
simple .pot file was extracted with the original message strings and
placeholders for singular and plural translations.
Next, I thought I’d get clever and install the results into the
virtualenv I use for working on PyMOTW. Re-configuring with my
--prefix set to
$VIRTUAL_ENV, rebuilding, then running
make install copied the binaries and a bunch of associated data files
right where I expected them to be. And the binary only recognized the
After a little more fighting, I did manage to get it working by
installing with a prefix of
$VIRTUAL_ENV/gettext and adding
$VIRTUAL_ENV/gettext/bin to my PATH. I’m not sure if the problem was
solved by clearing out an older, bad version of
elsewhere in my path or if using
$VIRTUAL_ENV as the prefix somehow
confused the install script.
Conclusion: I think I understand why internationalization is frequently the last feature dealt with in a project.