Working with Unicode Implementations: Lessons Learned

Jennifer DeCamp - MITRE Corporation

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

The U.S. government has been working with Unicode implementations for over three years in evaluating usefulness, testing potential applications, and building systems. In the last year, the government has gained significantly greater experience in actually using Unicode-compliant applications, text processors, and databases, and in building Unicode-compliant applications. This panel discussion will focus on the last year's efforts with Unicode implementations, discussing experiences with legacy systems, new Common Off-the- Shelf (COTS) technology, and government-developed applications.

Among the projects that will be discussed is the Library of Congress Multilingual Initiative, working with extensive esoteric languages in Unicode Version 3 but not yet implemented in commercial systems. Other projects include interoperability testing at MITRE Corporation, use of search engines on internet text at the Federal Broadcast Information Service, and other experiences with Unicode on legacy systems in the Department of Defense.

The conclusions are that implementation of Unicode in COTS products is improving in quality, and that certainly more products are becoming available. However, in real world settings, there are many products (e.g., some foreign language Optical Character Recognition packages) that are not up-to-date with Unicode and cause problems with full workflow implementations. Moreover, some legacy systems and legacy licenses do not permit the easy implementation of Unicode. In addition, there is still frequently misunderstanding or lack of knowledge about multilingual applications and about the requirements of governments, universities, multinational corporations, translation services, international organizations, and other target markets that use multilingual but not necessarily localized capabilities.

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21 Jun 2000, Webmaster