Re: portable Unicode programming.

"James Kanze" <>
Mon, 29 Jan 2007 15:22:09 CST
Lance Diduck wrote:


5. OK let's say that the C++ community did agree (ha!) on a common
encoding UTFx, and then did agree on a normal form for collation (for
example, last time I looked JavaScript uses UTF16LE using Normal Form
3 for comparisions) and string was changed to accomdate it. Then can
you imagine all the howling "The Spirit of C++ as Uttered by Dr
Stroustrup Himself Is That You Dont Have To Pay For What You Dont
Use." I predict few takers, esp since the vast majority of C++
programs never seem to use anything beyond the printable set of

While I found the rest of your article very good, I can't let
this by. I've never written a program that didn't use
characters not in the printable set of ASCII, and the same is
true for all of my collegues. That's a very parochial point of
view: English is not the only language in the world, and most
other languages do need more than just ASCII. Also, the cost
would only occur if you used the class; if you don't need it,
you just continue with the current std::string.

The problem is more that we still lack sufficient experience in
the domain to be able to define exactly what is needed.


If you don't care abut comparing strings using the proper semantics,
or, would use collate::compare insead of string::operator< and ==,
then you may be in business. One thing is for certain -- you get
almost no abstraction beyond "I am a contiguous sequence of bytes."
There are a few standard librariy and locale installations that will
at least let you get some rudimentary functionality out of
ctype::is_space, ctype::is_digit, etc passing in Unicode. Don't ask me
if passing in Unicode roman numerals qualifies as a digit!

The problem is that for many applications, the most natural
format of Unicode is UTF-8, for which ctype is completely

There are Unicode C++ libraries. There is the C++ version of ICU,
however, it really just looks like some turned on a Java C++ machine
translator, and placed the flotsam in a tar for download. (Last I
checked a couple years ago, ICU UnicodeString has "bogus sematics" --
if it is loaded with an invalid byte sequence, you check this by
calling isBogus(). Honest. Memory allocation is configured by
recompiling the ENTIRE library. Hopefully someone upgraded it out of
its misery) . A little more sane offering, that will cost you, is the
one by RogueWave. That one really does look like a Unicode String
written by a C++ developer.

I doubt that the C++ community would go as far as Javascript in
specifying how Unicode would be used. However, it would be nice to see
a standard Unicode utilities library in C++. I think that is something
that would be useful. As is stands, C++ can do Unicode, just not is a
portable way Sun, Linux want to use UTF32 (and of course Sun uses LE
and LInux I imagine BE), and Microsoft and IBM use UTF16 (again two
different flavors).

As long as you're in the program itself, that shouldn't cause
too much of a problem. And UTF-8 makes a good compromize for
external format (and is often the most reasonable choice in the
program itself).

James Kanze (Gabi Software) email:
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