Handling International Text a qa focus Document




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Handling International Text

A QA Focus Document

Background


Before the development of Unicode there were hundreds of different encoding systems that specific languages, but were incompatible with one another. Even for a language like English no single encoding was adequate for all the letters, punctuation, and technical symbols in common use.

Unicode avoids the language conversion issues of earlier encoding systems by providing a unique number for every character that is consistent across platforms, applications and language. However, there remain many issues surrounding its uses. This paper describes methods that can be used to assess the quality of encoded text produced by an application.


Conversion to Unicode


When handling text it is useful to perform quality checks to ensure the text is encoded to ensure more people can read it, particularly if it incorporates foreign or specialist characters. When preparing an ASCII file for distribution it is recommended that you check for corrupt or random characters. Examples of these are shown below:

  • Text being assigned random characters.

  • Text displaying black boxes.

To preserve long-term access to content, you should ensure that ASCII documents are converted to Unicode UTF-8. To achieve this, various solutions are available:

  1. Upgrade to a later package - Documents saved in older versions of the MS Word or Word Perfect formats can be easily converted by loading them into later (Word 2000+) versions of the application and resaving the file.

  2. Create a bespoke solution – A second solution is to create your own application to perform the conversion process. For example, a simple conversion process can be created using the following pseudo code to convert Greek into Unicode:

  1. Use an automatic conversion tool – Several conversion tools exist to simplify the conversion process. Unifier (Windows) and Sean Redmond’s Greek - Unicode converter (multi-platform) have an automatic conversion process, allowing you to insert the relevant text, choose the source and destination language, and convert.

Handling International Text

A QA Focus Document

Background


Before the development of Unicode there were hundreds of different encoding systems that specific languages, but were incompatible with one another. Even for a language like English no single encoding was adequate for all the letters, punctuation, and technical symbols in common use.

Unicode avoids the language conversion issues of earlier encoding systems by providing a unique number for every character that is consistent across platforms, applications and language. However, there remain many issues surrounding its uses. This paper describes methods that can be used to assess the quality of encoded text produced by an application.


Conversion to Unicode


When handling text it is useful to perform quality checks to ensure the text is encoded to ensure more people can read it, particularly if it incorporates foreign or specialist characters. When preparing an ASCII file for distribution it is recommended that you check for corrupt or random characters. Examples of these are shown below:

  • Text being assigned random characters.

  • Text displaying black boxes.

To preserve long-term access to content, you should ensure that ASCII documents are converted to Unicode UTF-8. To achieve this, various solutions are available:

  1. Upgrade to a later package - Documents saved in older versions of the MS Word or Word Perfect formats can be easily converted by loading them into later (Word 2000+) versions of the application and resaving the file.

  2. Create a bespoke solution – A second solution is to create your own application to perform the conversion process. For example, a simple conversion process can be created using the following pseudo code to convert Greek into Unicode:

  1. Use an automatic conversion tool – Several conversion tools exist to simplify the conversion process. Unifier (Windows) and Sean Redmond’s Greek - Unicode converter (multi-platform) have an automatic conversion process, allowing you to insert the relevant text, choose the source and destination language, and convert.

Ensure That You Have The Correct Unicode Font


Unicode may provide a unique identifier for the majority of languages, but the operating system will require the correct Unicode font to interpret these values and display them as glyphs that can be understood by the user. To ensure a user has a suitable font, the URL demonstrates a selection of the available languages:

If the client is missing a UTF-8 glyph to view the required language, they can be downloaded from .


Converting Between Different Character Encoding


Character encoding issues are typically caused by incompatible applications that use 7-bit encoding rather than Unicode. These problems are often disguised by applications that “enhance” existing standards by mixing different character sets (e.g. Windows and ISO 10646 characters are added to ISO Latin documents). Although these have numerous benefits, such as allowing Unicode characters to be displayed in HTML, they are not widely supported and can cause problems in other applications. A simple example can be seen below – the top line is shown as it would appear in Internet Explorer, the bottom line shows the same text displayed in another browser.

Although this improves the attractiveness of the text, the non-standard approach causes some information to be lost.

When converting between character encoding you should be aware of limitations of the character encoding.

Although 7-bit ASCII can map directly to the same code number in UTF-8 Unicode, many existing character encodings, such as ISO Latin, have well documented issues that limit their use for specific purposes. This includes the designation of certain characters as ‘illegal’. For example, the capital Y umlaut and a florin symbol. When performing the conversion process, many non-standard browsers save these characters through the range 0x82 through 0x95- that is reserved by Latin-1 and Unicode for additional control characters. Manually searching a document in a Hex editor for these values and examining the character associated with them, or the use of a third-party utility to convert them into a numerical character can resolve this.


Further Information


Further information is available from .

Ensure That You Have The Correct Unicode Font


Unicode may provide a unique identifier for the majority of languages, but the operating system will require the correct Unicode font to interpret these values and display them as glyphs that can be understood by the user. To ensure a user has a suitable font, the URL demonstrates a selection of the available languages:

If the client is missing a UTF-8 glyph to view the required language, they can be downloaded from .


Converting Between Different Character Encoding


Character encoding issues are typically caused by incompatible applications that use 7-bit encoding rather than Unicode. These problems are often disguised by applications that “enhance” existing standards by mixing different character sets (e.g. Windows and ISO 10646 characters are added to ISO Latin documents). Although these have numerous benefits, such as allowing Unicode characters to be displayed in HTML, they are not widely supported and can cause problems in other applications. A simple example can be seen below – the top line is shown as it would appear in Internet Explorer, the bottom line shows the same text displayed in another browser.

Although this improves the attractiveness of the text, the non-standard approach causes some information to be lost.

When converting between character encoding you should be aware of limitations of the character encoding.

Although 7-bit ASCII can map directly to the same code number in UTF-8 Unicode, many existing character encodings, such as ISO Latin, have well documented issues that limit their use for specific purposes. This includes the designation of certain characters as ‘illegal’. For example, the capital Y umlaut and a florin symbol. When performing the conversion process, many non-standard browsers save these characters through the range 0x82 through 0x95- that is reserved by Latin-1 and Unicode for additional control characters. Manually searching a document in a Hex editor for these values and examining the character associated with them, or the use of a third-party utility to convert them into a numerical character can resolve this.


Further Information


Further information is available from .

Produced by QA Focus - supporting JISC’s digital library programmes Dec 2004 Produced by QA Focus - supporting JISC’s digital library programmes Dec 2004


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