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NRSI: Computers & Writing Systems

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You are here: Encoding > Conversion
Short URL: http://scripts.sil.org/UTConvertQ9

When to Convert to Unicode

Is the technical expertise to do the conversion available to you?

Albert Bickford, Jim Brase and Lorna Priest, 2007-05-11

Actually converting data to Unicode requires special expertise. Some users can learn what is required. There are a lot of tools and instructions available, such as the following:

But most people will want to work with someone who is specially trained in the process. Or, if you want to do it yourself, at least get advice from someone with experience, and maybe have them check your work, so as to avoid the biggest pitfalls.

Here’s what’s involved in doing a conversion, once you’ve made the decision to go ahead with it:

  • Locating all data that needs to be converted.
  • Deciding what techniques and tools are appropriate for each type of file.
  • Configuring those tools for your particular situation. This usually includes obtaining or writing a “mapping table” that indicates how each of the characters in your old system should be transformed into Unicode. Special procedures may be needed if more than one special character system is used in the same file, or the conversion rules for borrowed words are different from native words, or files are in unusual formats.
  • Actually doing the conversion.
  • Checking the result visually to make sure nothing got garbled in the process, and redoing the process if necessary.
  • Archiving all files that are in the older special character system and removing them from any place where they may be confused with the Unicode files.
  • Obtaining new Unicode fonts and keyboards and installing them on all computers that need them.
  • Obtaining new Unicode-capable software and installing it.
  • Learning to use all the new software.

Advanced Resources

If you feel ready for more information in the area of encoding, you may want to read:‎

Back to When to Convert to Unicode.


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