Unicode on Smartphones and Palmtops: how EPOC does it

Graham Asher - Symbian, Ltd.

Intended Audience: Software Engineer, Systems Analyst, Marketer
Session Level: Intermediate

EPOC is an operating system for mobile ROM-based devices such as mobile phones and palm-top computers. It is used on Psion palmtops and the new Ericsson R380 smartphone among others. Former versions of EPOC used an eight-bit character encoding. During 1999 a new Unicode version of EPOC was released. Changing the character representation from 8-bit to 16-bit was only one of the problems that had to be solved. In addition, the standard Unicode collation and compression systems were implemented at the base level of the operating system, and control codes and special character encodings were changed from in-house values to standard Unicode. One of the most interesting tasks, which is still in progress, was to add support for complex scripts and bidirectional text to the text layout system. EPOC differs from most other operating systems in including text layout as an integral part. This paper describes how some of the design issues in adding these Unicode capabilities were tackled, and attempts to demonstrate how easy it is to write Unicode-compliant applications in EPOC. The conclusion of the paper is that EPOC now supports Unicode well enough to justify the claim 'EPOC does Unicode'.

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24 October 1999, Webmaster