U, T, F, 8, Who Do We Appreciate?

Memo to the developers of terminal emulators:

It’s 2004. Why aren’t you supporting UTF-8 yet?

For some inexplicable reason today, I decided it was high time I set up my Linux box to use UTF-8 instead of ISO-8859-1. Maybe I just got tired of seeing ? appear instead of accented characters in e-mails, or maybe I wanted to procrastinate from working on a personal statement for a fellowship application. But I digress.

Until now, I’ve been using Eterm for my terminal windows. It’s mostly a holdover from waaaay back when I used Enlightenment as my window manager. Mainly because it supports semitransparent backgrounds (which look nifty), I like for the most part the default font and colors, and until now I had no real reason to switch.

Unfortunately, Eterm doesn’t support UTF-8. Neither does rxvt (whose site seems to be down). So much for those.

Then I tried GNOME Terminal, since although I don’t use GNOME per se, I do have it installed and do use many programs that depend on it. GNOME Terminal supports UTF-8 in theory, but not particularly well in practice. I couldn’t for the life of me find a font that was both readable and that didn’t cause weird display errors with the line art in mutt. Do none of the fonts GNOME uses have line art characters? Also, GNOME Terminal felt rather resource-heavy; just doing an ls of my home directory took a non-negligible amount of time. No thanks.

So I’ve settled on plain old xterm. Pass it -class UXTerm -u8 on the command line and you get pretty good UTF-8 support, displaying most of UTF-8-demo.txt correctly and, more importantly, the line art in mutt looks just fine. The default font is quite readable, and the colors were easily customized to my satisfaction. Sadly, xterm doesn’t support background images or semitransparency, so I’m stuck with a plain old black background.

So, given a choice between nifty-looking backgrounds and UTF-8 support, I’ll choose UTF-8 support. Oooh, accented vowels rendered as something other than ?! I don’t see why that’s so hard for the other terminal emulators to do. (Yes, I know supporting UTF-8 is more complicated than ISO-8859-1, but come on. It’s about time you at least try to support it.)

5 Responses

  1. foo

  2. damnit, you have HTML disabled. I hate how most MT installations don’t say whether it’s on or not, making it so that people have to guess and either have nonexistent links or nonlinked links.

    Let’s try this again.


  3. Oh, and it works too: http://trikuare.cx/~magenta/utf8-2.jpg :)

  4. Your spacing looks off.


    OK, I’m missing a few characters, but I haven’t even bothered to try out other fonts. And it does seem to handle wide characters just fine (though you can’t see that from that shot).

    HTML? Yeah, I should at least put a note that HTML is turned off, or see if MT does a safe enough job of sanitizing to turn it on. It’s on my TODO list.

    In either case, if you had previewed, you’d've seen HTML was off. *ducks*

  5. Yeah, a lot of the unicodey stuff isn’t available in monospace fonts. But at least the encoding is supported. :)

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