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Gettext is an internationalization (i18n) and localization (l10n) system commonly used for writing multilingual programs. Gettext is a standard for i18n in different communities, meaning there is a great set of tooling for developers and translators. This project is an implementation of the Gettext system in Elixir.


Add :gettext to your list of dependencies in mix.exs (use $ mix gettext to find the latest version):

def deps do
    {:gettext, ">= 0.0.0"}

Documentation for Gettext is available on Hex.


To use Gettext, define a Gettext module:

defmodule MyApp.Gettext do
  use Gettext, otp_app: :my_app

and invoke the Gettext API, which consists of the *gettext macros:

import MyApp.Gettext

# Simple message
gettext("Here is one string to translate")

# Plural message
number_of_apples = 4
ngettext("The apple is ripe", "The apples are ripe", number_of_apples)

# Domain-based message
dgettext("errors", "Here is an error message to translate")

Messages in Gettext are stored in Portable Object files (.po). Such files must be placed at priv/gettext/LOCALE/LC_MESSAGES/DOMAIN.po, where LOCALE is the locale and DOMAIN is the domain (the default domain is called default).

For example, the message to pt_BR of the first two *gettext calls in the snippet above must be placed in the priv/gettext/pt_BR/LC_MESSAGES/default.po file with contents:

msgid "Here is one string to translate"
msgstr "Aqui est um texto para traduzir"

msgid "Here is the string to translate"
msgid_plural "Here are the strings to translate"
msgstr[0] "Aqui est o texto para traduzir"
msgstr[1] "Aqui esto os textos para traduzir"

.po are text-based files and can be edited directly by translators. Some may even use existing tools for managing them, such as Poedit or

Finally, because messages are based on strings, your source code does not lose readability as you still see literal strings, like gettext("here is an example"), instead of paths like translate("some.path.convention").

Read the documentation for the Gettext module for more information on locales, interpolation, pluralization, and other features.


Gettext is able to automatically extract messages from your source code, alleviating developers and translators from the repetitive and error-prone work of maintaining message files.

When extracted from source, messages are placed into .pot files, which are template files. Those templates files can then be merged into message files for each specific locale your application is being currently translated to.

In other words, the typical workflow looks like this:

  1. Add gettext calls to your source code. No need to touch message files at this point as Gettext will return the given string if no message is available:

    gettext("Welcome back!")
  2. Once changes to the source are complete, automatically sync all existing entries to .pot (template files) in priv/gettext by running:

    mix gettext.extract
  3. .pot files can then be merged into locale-specific .po files:

    # Merge .pot into all locales
    mix gettext.merge priv/gettext
    # Merge .pot into one specific locale
    mix gettext.merge priv/gettext --locale en

It is also possible to both extract and merge messages in one step with mix gettext.extract --merge.


Copyright 2015 Plataformatec Copyright 2020 Dashbit

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License"); you may not use this file except in compliance with the License. You may obtain a copy of the License at

Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS, WITHOUT WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, either express or implied. See the License for the specific language governing permissions and limitations under the License.

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