Re: UTF-8 support in the X Window System

From: Steve Swales (
Date: Thu Jun 24 1999 - 18:28:19 EDT


As Hideki intimated, Sun and other companies have done a lot of work in this
area over the last few years. In addition, the voting members of have
established a task force within to look into I18n issues such as this, as
well as several other "special interest" task forces.

I encourage anyone interested in this and other changes in the X standard to
visit the website (, and consider joining, if you
are not a member, or contacting your representative, if you are, so you can be
added to the appropriate task force mailing list(s).

Over the last year, we (, that is) have been reinventing ourselves, and we
are very interested in getting technological discussions going, and making
appropriate and needed changes and additions to the X standard. One of the
changes we've made is to make the membership more accessible to small companies
who want to participate, but can't afford a big financial committment, by adding
an additional tier of membership, and clearly outlining the benefits of each


P.S. for those within Sun who are interested in participating, please let me
know. If there is enough interest, I'll try to set up an internal mail alias
linked to the list.

>Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1999 14:59:09 -0700 (PDT)
>From: Markus Kuhn <>
>Subject: UTF-8 support in the X Window System
>To: Unicode List <>
>MIME-version: 1.0
>X-Uml-Sequence: 8073 (1999-06-21 21:59:11 GMT)
>Are here any engineers from X.Org companies such as Sun, HP, SCO, IBM, etc.
>who have a strong interest in seeing proper Unicode/UTF-8 support in the
>X11 protocol specification and in the Xlib sample implementation?
>I think it is time to set up a working group that takes care of filling
>in the (very few but still crucial) missing bits in the X protocol and
>Xlib to enable excellent interoperability between the many upcoming X11
>clients with Unicode support.
>There are a number of urgent issues that have to be arranged with the
>X.Org group, and I am rather clueless about how to orderly proceed with
>this. For example, as part of the xterm UTF-8 extension, Julius
>Chroboczek and I have defined a few conventions that really should in
>some form find their way into the next revision of the X protocol
> - UTF-8 selections have the new UTF8_STRING type (because STRING is
> per definition only Latin-1 in the existing standard). This allows
> selection interoperability between Unicode and Latin-1 applications.
> - Any Unicode character in the range U+000000 to U+FFFFFF has now
> a keysym code assigned (at least for xterm) that is obtained by
> adding 0x01000000, such that you can associate any Unicode character
> with a key and not just the tiny subset for which keysyms exist.
>There is currently no support for ISO 10646-1/UTF-8 whatsoever in the
>X11R6.4 sample implementation (there are only a few now obsolete
>sketches of UTF-1 support). It will be necessary to implement UTF-8 as
>one of the supported multi-byte encodings, such that xterm can get UTF-8
>strings directly with XmbLookupString(), which would allow us to remove
>the current keysym->UTF-8 hack in xterm again and put proper Unicode
>keyboard support into Xlib (with hex entry, full support of the compose
>key, etc.)
>I think it is rather important that an X.Org working group is set up to
>properly include support for UTF-8 into all the specifications and the
>sample implementation. Doing so seems to be rather straight forward, but
>it has to be done properly to enable interoperable use of ISO10646-1
>under X.
>How do we get this going?
>Markus G. Kuhn, Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge, UK
>Email: mkuhn at, WWW: <>

Steve Swales
Sun Microsystems, Inc.
901 San Antonio Road, MS MPK29-203
Palo Alto, CA 94303-4900
650 786-0612 Direct
650 786-0577 Fax

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