27.7 Coding Systems
Users of various languages have established many more-or-less standard
coding systems for representing them. Emacs does not use these coding
systems internally; instead, it converts from various coding systems to
its own system when reading data, and converts the internal coding
system to other coding systems when writing data. Conversion is
possible in reading or writing files, in sending or receiving from the
terminal, and in exchanging data with subprocesses.
Emacs assigns a name to each coding system. Most coding systems are
used for one language, and the name of the coding system starts with the
language name. Some coding systems are used for several languages;
their names usually start with ‘iso’. There are also special
emacs-mule which do not convert printing characters at all.
A special class of coding systems, collectively known as
codepages, is designed to support text encoded by MS-Windows and
MS-DOS software. The names of these coding systems are
cpnnnn, where nnnn is a 3- or 4-digit number of the
codepage. You can use these encodings just like any other coding
system; for example, to visit a file encoded in codepage 850, type
C-x <RET> c cp850 <RET> C-x C-f filename
In addition to converting various representations of non-ASCII
characters, a coding system can perform end-of-line conversion. Emacs
handles three different conventions for how to separate lines in a file:
newline, carriage-return linefeed, and just carriage-return.
- C-h C coding <RET>
- Describe coding system coding.
- C-h C <RET>
- Describe the coding systems currently in use.
- M-x list-coding-systems
- Display a list of all the supported coding systems.
The command C-h C (
information about particular coding systems. You can specify a coding
system name as the argument; alternatively, with an empty argument, it
describes the coding systems currently selected for various purposes,
both in the current buffer and as the defaults, and the priority list
for recognizing coding systems (see Recognize Coding).
To display a list of all the supported coding systems, type M-x
list-coding-systems. The list gives information about each coding
system, including the letter that stands for it in the mode line
(see Mode Line).
Each of the coding systems that appear in this list—except for
no-conversion, which means no conversion of any kind—specifies
how and whether to convert printing characters, but leaves the choice of
end-of-line conversion to be decided based on the contents of each file.
For example, if the file appears to use the sequence carriage-return
linefeed to separate lines, DOS end-of-line conversion will be used.
Each of the listed coding systems has three variants which specify
exactly what to do for end-of-line conversion:
- Don't do any end-of-line conversion; assume the file uses
newline to separate lines. (This is the convention normally used
on Unix and GNU systems.)
- Assume the file uses carriage-return linefeed to separate lines, and do
the appropriate conversion. (This is the convention normally used on
- Assume the file uses carriage-return to separate lines, and do the
appropriate conversion. (This is the convention normally used on the
These variant coding systems are omitted from the
list-coding-systems display for brevity, since they are entirely
predictable. For example, the coding system
The coding system
raw-text is good for a file which is mainly
ASCII text, but may contain byte values above 127 which are not meant to
encode non-ASCII characters. With
raw-text, Emacs copies those
byte values unchanged, and sets
nil in the current buffer so that they will be interpreted
raw-text handles end-of-line conversion in the usual
way, based on the data encountered, and has the usual three variants to
specify the kind of end-of-line conversion to use.
In contrast, the coding system
no-conversion specifies no
character code conversion at all—none for non-ASCII byte values and
none for end of line. This is useful for reading or writing binary
files, tar files, and other files that must be examined verbatim. It,
The easiest way to edit a file with no conversion of any kind is with
the M-x find-file-literally command. This uses
no-conversion, and also suppresses other Emacs features that
might convert the file contents before you see them. See Visiting.
The coding system
emacs-mule means that the file contains
non-ASCII characters stored with the internal Emacs encoding. It
handles end-of-line conversion based on the data encountered, and has
the usual three variants to specify the kind of end-of-line conversion.