NRSI: Computers & Writing Systems
When to Convert to Unicode
What is Unicode? and Why do I need to use Unicode?
Unicode is a character encoding standard that has widespread acceptance. Microsoft software uses Unicode at its core. Whether you realize it or not, you are using Unicode already! Basically, “computers just deal with numbers. They store letters and other characters by assigning a number for each one. Before Unicode was invented, there were hundreds of different encoding systems for assigning these numbers. No single encoding could contain enough characters.1” This has been the problem we, in SIL, have often run into. If you are using a legacy encoding your font conflicts with the font someone in another area of the world uses. You might have an in your font while someplace else someone used a at the same codepoint. Your files are incompatible. Unicode provides a unique number for every character and so you do not have this problem if you use Unicode. If your document calls for U+0289 it will be clear to any computer program what the character should be.
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