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Computing With Accents and Foreign Scripts

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Encoding on the Internet

9: How a Browser Reads a Web Site

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Here is how encoding schemes interact with a browser to produce a page with the correctly rendered script.

A. The browser extracts the encoding from the Web page

Properly encoded Web pages declare the encoding to a browser through a meta tag in the header.This meta tag instructs the browser to use an appropriate font for that script.

Some examples of the header tag are given below.

Sample Encoding Declarations

Template | Unicode | Latin 1 | Other


<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=???">

Unicode (Any Language)

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8">

Latin 1 (English, Spanish, French, German, etc.)

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1">

NOTE: It IS good practice to declare the encoding even for an English Web site. One function of this is to tag is to "reset" the user's browser back to Latin-1 and ensure proper font settings. The Unicode "utf-8" encoding also ensures that any special characters inserted such as "Smart quotes", currency symbols, em-dashes and so forth will be properly displayed in most browsers.

Other Scripts (e.g. Windows-1251 for Cyrillic)

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=windows-1251">

See the Encoding by Script table or the individual By Language Page for other encodings or go to pages in your script and go to the View Source window to see which encodings are generally used.

If no encoding is declared, then the browser uses the default setting, which in the U.S. is typically Latin-1. If the page is actually in some other script, but no encoding specified, the browser will use a Roman alphabet font and display gibberish.

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B. How the browser picks the font

In many browsers, the user sets up correlations between an encoding scheme and a properly encoded font through the browser Preferences or Internet Tools (Internet Explorer-Windows) window. Here is a sample Preference set-up for Japanese encoding. Instructions for setting font preferences in individual browsers are listed below.

Links to Browser Font Preference Settings 

Recommended Browsers

Browsers which fully support Unicode are the strongly recommended. Click link in list to view configuration instructions. You will be asked to match a script with a font.

Note on System 9: Because Unicode support is incomplete in System 9, it may be beneficial to upgrade to O S X if you need to work with Unicode.

See the Encoding by Script page to see preferred settings for other languages.


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Last Modified: Tuesday, 04-Jun-2013 12:41:29 EDT