Char Sets

  • Character sets translate characters to numbers.


  • American Standard Code for Information Interchange
  • Encodes 128 characters in 7 bits.
  • Encoded are numbers 0 to 9, lowercase letters a to z, uppercase letters A to Z, basic punctuation symbols, control codes and space.
  • ANSI standard – different "code pages" for characters 128-255 (the 1 extra bit) which differ between countries and languages.


  • Character set for most of the world's writing systems.
  • List of characters with unique numbers (code points).
  • There are more than 120,000 characters covering 129 "scripts" (a collection of letters), there's no limit on number of letters.
  • Letters map to code points.
  • Every letter in every alphabet is assigned a number, for example the letter A = 41 (U+0041); the number is hexadecimal.
  • For example, the list of numbers represent the string "hello": 104 101 108 108 111.
  • There are more than 65,526 (2^16) chars, so not every Unicode letter can be represented by two Bytes.
  • Unicode character in Java: \u00fc
    • String s = "\u00fc";


  • An encoding is a way to translate between Strings and Bytes.
  • Encoding is how these numbers are translated into binary numbers to be stored on disk or in memory (Encoding translates numbers into binary).
  • It doesn't make sense to have a string without knowing what encoding it uses!


  • UTF-8 is a transmission format for Unicode, i.e., encoding.
  • Capable of encoding all 1,112,064 possible characters (code points) in Unicode.
  • Variable-length, code points are encoded with 8-bit code units.
  • Every code point from 0-127 is stored in a single Byte.
  • Code points 128 and above are stored using 2, 3, or 4 Bytes.
  • English text looks exactly the same in UTF-8 as it did in ASCII.
  • ASCII text is valid UTF-8-encoded Unicode.
  • byte[] however has an encoding.
  • To convert a string object to UTF-8, invoke the getBytes(Charset charset) on the string with UTF-8.
  • 84.6% of all Web pages use UTF-8.
  • Java String uses UTF-16 encoding internally.
  • For example, UTF-8 encoding will store "hello" like this (binary): 01101000 01100101 01101100 01101100 01101111


  • Capable of encoding all 1,112,064 possible characters in Unicode.
  • Variable-length, code points are encoded with one or two 16-bit code units.
  • The String class in Java uses UTF-16 encoding internally and can't be modified.


  • A way to represent Unicode with the limited character subset of ASCII supported by DNS.
  • For example: "bücher" => "bcher-kva"

Communicating Encoding

  • Email:
    • Content-Type: text/plain; charset="UTF-8" header in the beginning of the message.
  • Web page:
    • <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8"> meta tag, has to be the very first thing in the <head>.
    • As soon as the web browser sees this tag it's going to stop parsing the page and start over after reinterpreting the whole page using the encoding specified.
    • Can also use the Content-Type header like in email, but the <meta> tag is preferable.

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