charsets(7) — Linux manual page


CHARSETS(7)               Linux Programmer's 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 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 646:1991 IRV (International Reference Version) standard.

       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 ASCII.

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

   ISO 8859
       ISO 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

       Of these, the most important is ISO 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 8859-1
       characters are also the first 256 characters of Unicode.

       Console support for the other 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 driver.

       Here are brief descriptions of each set:

       8859-1 (Latin-1)
              Latin-1 covers many West 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 old-style
              „German“ quotation marks was considered tolerable.

       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.

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              Turkish, but 8859-9 later superseded it for Turkish.

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              as Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian, but was superseded by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

       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.

       8859-6 Was created for Arabic.  The 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.

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

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

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

       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.

              Supports the Thai alphabet and is nearly identical to the
              TIS-620 standard.

              This set does not exist.

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

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

       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.

       8859-16 (Latin-10)
              This 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 8859-5.  KOI8-U, based on KOI8-R,
       has better support for Ukrainian.  Neither of these sets are ISO-2022
       compatible, unlike the ISO 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 driver.

   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 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-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-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 2022 and ISO 4873
       The ISO 2022 and 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 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 041–0176.

       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 2375 International Register of Coded Character Sets.  For
       example, ESC ( @ selects the ISO 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 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,

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

       Unicode (ISO 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 (UTF-8).

       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 bits.

       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 10646
       then this progression continues up to 6-byte codes.)

       For most texts in ISO 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 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

SEE ALSO         top

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

COLOPHON         top

       This page is part of release 5.09 of the Linux man-pages project.  A
       description of the project, information about reporting bugs, and the
       latest version of this page, can be found at

Linux                            2020-08-13                      CHARSETS(7)

Pages that refer to this page: iconv(1)ioctl_console(2)nl_langinfo(3)nl_langinfo_l(3)setlocale(3)console_codes(4)console_ioctl(4)charmap(5)locale(5)armscii-8(7)ascii(7)cp1251(7)cp1252(7)iso-8859-10(7)iso_8859-10(7)iso_8859_10(7)iso-8859-11(7)iso_8859-11(7)iso_8859_11(7)iso-8859-13(7)iso_8859-13(7)iso_8859_13(7)iso-8859-14(7)iso_8859-14(7)iso_8859_14(7)iso-8859-15(7)iso_8859-15(7)iso_8859_15(7)iso-8859-16(7)iso_8859-16(7)iso_8859_16(7)iso-8859-1(7)iso_8859-1(7)iso_8859_1(7)iso-8859-2(7)iso_8859-2(7)iso_8859_2(7)iso-8859-3(7)iso_8859-3(7)iso_8859_3(7)iso-8859-4(7)iso_8859-4(7)iso_8859_4(7)iso-8859-5(7)iso_8859-5(7)iso_8859_5(7)iso-8859-6(7)iso_8859-6(7)iso_8859_6(7)iso-8859-7(7)iso_8859-7(7)iso_8859_7(7)iso-8859-8(7)iso_8859-8(7)iso_8859_8(7)iso-8859-9(7)iso_8859-9(7)iso_8859_9(7)koi8-r(7)koi8-u(7)latin10(7)latin1(7)latin2(7)latin3(7)latin4(7)latin5(7)latin6(7)latin7(7)latin8(7)latin9(7)locale(7)tis-620(7)unicode(7)utf-8(7)utf8(7)UTF-8(7)