charsets(7) — Linux manual page


charsets(7)         Miscellaneous Information Manual         charsets(7)

NAME         top

       charsets - character set standards and internationalization

DESCRIPTION         top

       This manual page gives an overview on different character set
       standards and how they were used on Linux before Unicode became
       ubiquitous.  Some of this information is still helpful for people
       working with legacy systems and documents.

       Standards discussed include such as ASCII, GB 2312, ISO/IEC 8859,
       JIS, KOI8-R, KS, and Unicode.

       The primary emphasis is on character sets that were actually used
       by locale character sets, not the myriad others that could be
       found in data from other systems.

       ASCII (American Standard Code For Information Interchange) is the
       original 7-bit character set, originally designed for American
       English.  Also known as US-ASCII.  It is currently described by
       the ISO/IEC 646:1991 IRV (International Reference Version)

       Various ASCII variants replacing the dollar sign with other
       currency symbols and replacing punctuation with non-English
       alphabetic characters to cover German, French, Spanish, and
       others in 7 bits emerged.  All are deprecated; glibc does not
       support locales whose character sets are not true supersets of

       As Unicode, when using UTF-8, is ASCII-compatible, plain ASCII
       text still renders properly on modern UTF-8 using systems.

   ISO/IEC 8859
       ISO/IEC 8859 is a series of 15 8-bit character sets, all of which
       have ASCII in their low (7-bit) half, invisible control
       characters in positions 128 to 159, and 96 fixed-width graphics
       in positions 160–255.

       Of these, the most important is ISO/IEC 8859-1 ("Latin Alphabet
       No. 1" / Latin-1).  It was widely adopted and supported by
       different systems, and is gradually being replaced with Unicode.
       The ISO/IEC 8859-1 characters are also the first 256 characters
       of Unicode.

       Console support for the other ISO/IEC 8859 character sets is
       available under Linux through user-mode utilities (such as
       setfont(8)) that modify keyboard bindings and the EGA graphics
       table and employ the "user mapping" font table in the console

       Here are brief descriptions of each character set:

       ISO/IEC 8859-1 (Latin-1)
              Latin-1 covers many European languages such as Albanian,
              Basque, Danish, English, Faroese, Galician, Icelandic,
              Irish, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, and
              Swedish.  The lack of the ligatures Dutch IJ/ij, French œ,
              and „German“ quotation marks was considered tolerable.

       ISO/IEC 8859-2 (Latin-2)
              Latin-2 supports many Latin-written Central and East
              European languages such as Bosnian, Croatian, Czech,
              German, Hungarian, Polish, Slovak, and Slovene.  Replacing
              Romanian ș/ț with ş/ţ was considered tolerable.

       ISO/IEC 8859-3 (Latin-3)
              Latin-3 was designed to cover of Esperanto, Maltese, and
              Turkish, but ISO/IEC 8859-9 later superseded it for

       ISO/IEC 8859-4 (Latin-4)
              Latin-4 introduced letters for North European languages
              such as Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian, but was
              superseded by ISO/IEC 8859-10 and ISO/IEC 8859-13.

       ISO/IEC 8859-5
              Cyrillic letters supporting Bulgarian, Byelorussian,
              Macedonian, Russian, Serbian, and (almost completely)
              Ukrainian.  It was never widely used, see the discussion
              of KOI8-R/KOI8-U below.

       ISO/IEC 8859-6
              Was created for Arabic.  The ISO/IEC 8859-6 glyph table is
              a fixed font of separate letter forms, but a proper
              display engine should combine these using the proper
              initial, medial, and final forms.

       ISO/IEC 8859-7
              Was created for Modern Greek in 1987, updated in 2003.

       ISO/IEC 8859-8
              Supports Modern Hebrew without niqud (punctuation signs).
              Niqud and full-fledged Biblical Hebrew were outside the
              scope of this character set.

       ISO/IEC 8859-9 (Latin-5)
              This is a variant of Latin-1 that replaces Icelandic
              letters with Turkish ones.

       ISO/IEC 8859-10 (Latin-6)
              Latin-6 added the Inuit (Greenlandic) and Sami (Lappish)
              letters that were missing in Latin-4 to cover the entire
              Nordic area.

       ISO/IEC 8859-11
              Supports the Thai alphabet and is nearly identical to the
              TIS-620 standard.

       ISO/IEC 8859-12
              This character set does not exist.

       ISO/IEC 8859-13 (Latin-7)
              Supports the Baltic Rim languages; in particular, it
              includes Latvian characters not found in Latin-4.

       ISO/IEC 8859-14 (Latin-8)
              This is the Celtic character set, covering Old Irish,
              Manx, Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish, and Breton.

       ISO/IEC 8859-15 (Latin-9)
              Latin-9 is similar to the widely used Latin-1 but replaces
              some less common symbols with the Euro sign and French and
              Finnish letters that were missing in Latin-1.

       ISO/IEC 8859-16 (Latin-10)
              This character set covers many Southeast European
              languages, and most importantly supports Romanian more
              completely than Latin-2.

   KOI8-R / KOI8-U
       KOI8-R is a non-ISO character set popular in Russia before
       Unicode.  The lower half is ASCII; the upper is a Cyrillic
       character set somewhat better designed than ISO/IEC 8859-5.
       KOI8-U, based on KOI8-R, has better support for Ukrainian.
       Neither of these sets are ISO/IEC 2022 compatible, unlike the
       ISO/IEC 8859 series.

       Console support for KOI8-R is available under Linux through user-
       mode utilities that modify keyboard bindings and the EGA graphics
       table, and employ the "user mapping" font table in the console

   GB 2312
       GB 2312 is a mainland Chinese national standard character set
       used to express simplified Chinese.  Just like JIS X 0208,
       characters are mapped into a 94x94 two-byte matrix used to
       construct EUC-CN.  EUC-CN is the most important encoding for
       Linux and includes ASCII and GB 2312.  Note that EUC-CN is often
       called as GB, GB 2312, or CN-GB.

       Big5 was a popular character set in Taiwan to express traditional
       Chinese.  (Big5 is both a character set and an encoding.)  It is
       a superset of ASCII.  Non-ASCII characters are expressed in two
       bytes.  Bytes 0xa1–0xfe are used as leading bytes for two-byte
       characters.  Big5 and its extension were widely used in Taiwan
       and Hong Kong.  It is not ISO/IEC 2022 compliant.

   JIS X 0208
       JIS X 0208 is a Japanese national standard character set.  Though
       there are some more Japanese national standard character sets
       (like JIS X 0201, JIS X 0212, and JIS X 0213), this is the most
       important one.  Characters are mapped into a 94x94 two-byte
       matrix, whose each byte is in the range 0x21–0x7e.  Note that JIS
       X 0208 is a character set, not an encoding.  This means that JIS
       X 0208 itself is not used for expressing text data.  JIS X 0208
       is used as a component to construct encodings such as EUC-JP,
       Shift_JIS, and ISO/IEC 2022-JP.  EUC-JP is the most important
       encoding for Linux and includes ASCII and JIS X 0208.  In EUC-JP,
       JIS X 0208 characters are expressed in two bytes, each of which
       is the JIS X 0208 code plus 0x80.

   KS X 1001
       KS X 1001 is a Korean national standard character set.  Just as
       JIS X 0208, characters are mapped into a 94x94 two-byte matrix.
       KS X 1001 is used like JIS X 0208, as a component to construct
       encodings such as EUC-KR, Johab, and ISO/IEC 2022-KR.  EUC-KR is
       the most important encoding for Linux and includes ASCII and KS X
       1001.  KS C 5601 is an older name for KS X 1001.

   ISO/IEC 2022 and ISO/IEC 4873
       The ISO/IEC 2022 and ISO/IEC 4873 standards describe a font-
       control model based on VT100 practice.  This model is (partially)
       supported by the Linux kernel and by xterm(1).  Several
       ISO/IEC 2022-based character encodings have been defined,
       especially for Japanese.

       There are 4 graphic character sets, called G0, G1, G2, and G3,
       and one of them is the current character set for codes with high
       bit zero (initially G0), and one of them is the current character
       set for codes with high bit one (initially G1).  Each graphic
       character set has 94 or 96 characters, and is essentially a 7-bit
       character set.  It uses codes either 040–0177 (041–0176) or
       0240–0377 (0241–0376).  G0 always has size 94 and uses codes

       Switching between character sets is done using the shift
       functions ^N (SO or LS1), ^O (SI or LS0), ESC n (LS2), ESC o
       (LS3), ESC N (SS2), ESC O (SS3), ESC ~ (LS1R), ESC } (LS2R), ESC
       | (LS3R).  The function LSn makes character set Gn the current
       one for codes with high bit zero.  The function LSnR makes
       character set Gn the current one for codes with high bit one.
       The function SSn makes character set Gn (n=2 or 3) the current
       one for the next character only (regardless of the value of its
       high order bit).

       A 94-character set is designated as Gn character set by an escape
       sequence ESC ( xx (for G0), ESC ) xx (for G1), ESC * xx (for G2),
       ESC + xx (for G3), where xx is a symbol or a pair of symbols
       found in the ISO/IEC 2375 International Register of Coded
       Character Sets.  For example, ESC ( @ selects the ISO/IEC 646
       character set as G0, ESC ( A selects the UK standard character
       set (with pound instead of number sign), ESC ( B selects ASCII
       (with dollar instead of currency sign), ESC ( M selects a
       character set for African languages, ESC ( ! A selects the Cuban
       character set, and so on.

       A 96-character set is designated as Gn character set by an escape
       sequence ESC - xx (for G1), ESC . xx (for G2) or ESC / xx (for
       G3).  For example, ESC - G selects the Hebrew alphabet as G1.

       A multibyte character set is designated as Gn character set by an
       escape sequence ESC $ xx or ESC $ ( xx (for G0), ESC $ ) xx (for
       G1), ESC $ * xx (for G2), ESC $ + xx (for G3).  For example, ESC
       $ ( C selects the Korean character set for G0.  The Japanese
       character set selected by ESC $ B has a more recent version
       selected by ESC & @ ESC $ B.

       ISO/IEC 4873 stipulates a narrower use of character sets, where
       G0 is fixed (always ASCII), so that G1, G2, and G3 can be invoked
       only for codes with the high order bit set.  In particular, ^N
       and ^O are not used anymore, ESC ( xx can be used only with xx=B,
       and ESC ) xx, ESC * xx, ESC + xx are equivalent to ESC - xx, ESC
       . xx, ESC / xx, respectively.

       TIS-620 is a Thai national standard character set and a superset
       of ASCII.  In the same fashion as the ISO/IEC 8859 series, Thai
       characters are mapped into 0xa1–0xfe.

       Unicode (ISO/IEC 10646) is a standard which aims to unambiguously
       represent every character in every human language.  Unicode's
       structure permits 20.1 bits to encode every character.  Since
       most computers don't include 20.1-bit integers, Unicode is
       usually encoded as 32-bit integers internally and either a series
       of 16-bit integers (UTF-16) (needing two 16-bit integers only
       when encoding certain rare characters) or a series of 8-bit bytes

       Linux represents Unicode using the 8-bit Unicode Transformation
       Format (UTF-8).  UTF-8 is a variable length encoding of Unicode.
       It uses 1 byte to code 7 bits, 2 bytes for 11 bits, 3 bytes for
       16 bits, 4 bytes for 21 bits, 5 bytes for 26 bits, 6 bytes for 31

       Let 0,1,x stand for a zero, one, or arbitrary bit.  A byte
       0xxxxxxx stands for the Unicode 00000000 0xxxxxxx which codes the
       same symbol as the ASCII 0xxxxxxx.  Thus, ASCII goes unchanged
       into UTF-8, and people using only ASCII do not notice any change:
       not in code, and not in file size.

       A byte 110xxxxx is the start of a 2-byte code, and 110xxxxx
       10yyyyyy is assembled into 00000xxx xxyyyyyy.  A byte 1110xxxx is
       the start of a 3-byte code, and 1110xxxx 10yyyyyy 10zzzzzz is
       assembled into xxxxyyyy yyzzzzzz.  (When UTF-8 is used to code
       the 31-bit ISO/IEC 10646 then this progression continues up to
       6-byte codes.)

       For most texts in ISO/IEC 8859 character sets, this means that
       the characters outside of ASCII are now coded with two bytes.
       This tends to expand ordinary text files by only one or two
       percent.  For Russian or Greek texts, this expands ordinary text
       files by 100%, since text in those languages is mostly outside of
       ASCII.  For Japanese users this means that the 16-bit codes now
       in common use will take three bytes.  While there are algorithmic
       conversions from some character sets (especially ISO/IEC 8859-1)
       to Unicode, general conversion requires carrying around
       conversion tables, which can be quite large for 16-bit codes.

       Note that UTF-8 is self-synchronizing: 10xxxxxx is a tail, any
       other byte is the head of a code.  Note that the only way ASCII
       bytes occur in a UTF-8 stream, is as themselves.  In particular,
       there are no embedded NULs ('\0') or '/'s that form part of some
       larger code.

       Since ASCII, and, in particular, NUL and '/', are unchanged, the
       kernel does not notice that UTF-8 is being used.  It does not
       care at all what the bytes it is handling stand for.

       Rendering of Unicode data streams is typically handled through
       "subfont" tables which map a subset of Unicode to glyphs.
       Internally the kernel uses Unicode to describe the subfont loaded
       in video RAM.  This means that in the Linux console in UTF-8
       mode, one can use a character set with 512 different symbols.
       This is not enough for Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, but it is
       enough for most other purposes.

SEE ALSO         top

       iconv(1), ascii(7), iso_8859-1(7), unicode(7), utf-8(7)

COLOPHON         top

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Linux man-pages 6.9.1          2024-06-15                    charsets(7)

Pages that refer to this page: iconv(1)ioctl_console(2)lconv(3type)nl_langinfo(3)setlocale(3)console_codes(4)charmap(5)locale(5)armscii-8(7)ascii(7)cp1251(7)cp1252(7)iso_8859-10(7)iso_8859-11(7)iso_8859-13(7)iso_8859-14(7)iso_8859-15(7)iso_8859-16(7)iso_8859-1(7)iso_8859-2(7)iso_8859-3(7)iso_8859-4(7)iso_8859-5(7)iso_8859-6(7)iso_8859-7(7)iso_8859-8(7)iso_8859-9(7)koi8-r(7)koi8-u(7)locale(7)unicode(7)utf-8(7)