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Notes on Unicode - Why is Unicode relevant?

So why would you like to use the Unicode? Since this may not be obvious here is a short list of arguments to consider. Please note that the Unicode versions are only available for Windows NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista, though they may run fine on Windows 9x/ME with the unicode layer installed - we do not support this, however!

  • The Unicode version runs faster. Due to the fact that Windows, starting with NT, supports Unicode natively, the ANSI system functions are only wrappers around the actual Unicode functions. Whenever text (e.g. file names) is passed into one of the ANSI functions, it will be converted to Unicode first and disposed after the call. This is why the Unicode version runs faster on the NT platform.
  • Unicode allows you to represent all kind of characters (letters) without ever changing the code page. Whereas on Windows 9x/ME you had to configure your system to show a certain language, newer systems will be able to use a wealth of languages without ever being reconfigured. Of course you want to have a demonstration, right? So here it is:
    1. Without Unicode:
      ANSI version on a German system
      ANSI on a German system (click for full view)
      As you can see only certain characters are shown directly. Some are even replaced by question marks. This raises an additional problem: whenever a question mark is encountered the usual file-handling application would consider this as a wildcard ("placeholder"). Hence such filenames cannot be handled properly in ANSI versions.
      Also some of the characters are replaced by those which are locally available. Note the slight difference between β (Greek letter beta) and ß (German ligature sz).
      However, on the NT platform it may happen you stumble over a system with Chinese, Hebrew, German and Russian text at once. In this case the ANSI version will make you more problems than it would solve. You will not be able to perform certain actions on a file or directory just because the filename is not understood by the system.
    2. With Unicode:
      Unicode version on a German system
      Unicode on a German system (click for full view)
      Here you can see several characters as they would appear on a system in the respective country. Note however, that Georgian shows only as squares. This happens if the font you use does not have the graphical representation for the characters. Though this may be a cosmetic problem, it is not a problem when it comes to file operations, since the filename is fully correct, even if it is being transferred. This is the major advantage of the Unicode version.
    And yes, this also means that as a Pole or Russian you can have the interface of WinDirStat in your preferred language even though you work on a Western Windows (which likely does not support all needed characters in the ANSI version).

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Page last updated: 2011-04-12 01:34Z