Joel Spolsky has created yet another nifty write-up called The Absolute Minimum Every Software Developer Absolutely, Positively Must Know About Unicode and Character Sets (No Excuses!).
I couldn’t agree more with him. Having spent years doing desktop publishing involving text files created both on Macs and Windows, the sheer amount of time I’ve had to waste massaging high-ASCII characters between the platforms boggles the mind.
But Nic, you say, I’ve done that as well, and I’ve never had any problems. Good for you. Did you do that in Sweden, where the alphabet includes the three characters åäö? Have you seen the unholy mess that results from transferring files between platforms when they’re full of åäö? It’s not pretty. Add to that seemingly simple things like curly quotes and em-dashes, and your will to live starts to drain away.
The single thought running through my head whenever I would run cleanup scripts on those files was always “Why the hell do I have to do this?” But heck, that was years ago, and now we have the Internet and everything is really cool and multicultural and those issues have gone away, right? Bzzz. Wrong. I still get emails with åäö in them that look like the writings of a demented prophet.
So if you happen to be a programmer or web developer and you’re reading this, get thee to Joel’s article and take it to heart. There are just no excuses anymore.
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