Usually, programs are written and documented in English, and use English at execution time for interacting with users. This is true not only from within GNU, but also in a great deal of proprietary and free software. Using a common language is quite handy for communication between developers, maintainers and users from all countries. On the other hand, most people are less comfortable with English than with their own native language, and would rather be using their mother tongue for day to day's work, as far as possible. Many would simply love seeing their computer screen showing a lot less of English, and far more of their own language.
GNU `gettext' is an important step for the GNU Translation Project, as it is an asset on which we may build many other steps. This package offers to programmers, translators, and even users, a well integrated set of tools and documentation. Specifically, the GNU `gettext' utilities are a set of tools that provides a framework to help other GNU packages produce multi-lingual messages. These tools include a set of conventions about how programs should be written to support message catalogs, a directory and file naming organization for the message catalogs themselves, a runtime library supporting the retrieval of translated messages, and a few stand-alone programs to massage in various ways the sets of translatable strings, or already translated strings. A special GNU Emacs mode also helps interested parties in preparing these sets, or bringing them up to date.