This document contains guidelines on the use of the Unicode Standard in conjunction with markup languages such as XML.
This is a Technical Report published jointly by the Unicode Technical Committee and by the W3C Internationalization Working Group/Interest Group (W3C Members only) in the context of the W3C Internationalization Activity.
The base version of the Unicode Standard for this document is Version 4.0. For more information about versions of the Unicode Standard, see http://www.unicode.org/unicode/standard/versions/. Both the Unicode Standard and markup technologies are evolving. When appropriate, a new version of this document may be published.Please mail corrigenda and other comments to the authors.
A Unicode Technical Report (UTR) contains informative material. Conformance to the Unicode Standard does not imply conformance to any UTR. Other specifications, however, are free to make normative references to a UTR.
This Note has been endorsed by the W3C Internationalization Working Group/Interest Group, but has not been reviewed or endorsed by W3C Members.
A list of current W3C Technical Reports can be found at http://www.w3.org/TR/.
The Unicode Standard [Unicode] defines the universal character set. Its primary goal is to provide an unambiguous encoding of the content of plain text, ultimately covering all languages in the world. Currently in its fourth major version, Unicode contains a large number of characters covering most of the currently used scripts in the world. It also contains additional characters for interoperability with older character encodings, and characters with control-like functions included primarily for reasons of providing unambiguous interpretation of plain text. Unicode provides specifications for use of all of these characters.
For document and data interchange, the Internet and the World Wide Web are more and more making use of marked-up text such as HTML and XML. In many instances, markup provides the same, or essentially similar features to those provided by format characters in the Unicode Standard for use in plain text. Another special character category provided by Unicode are compatibility characters. While there may be valid reasons to support these characters and their specifications in plain text, their use in marked-up text can conflict with the rules of the markup language. Formatting characters are discussed in chapters 2 and 3, compatibility characters in chapter 4.
Issues resulting from canonical equivalences and Normalization [Normalization] as well as the interaction of character encoding and methods of escaping characters in markup are discussed in the Character Model for the World Wide Web [Charmod].
The issues of using Unicode characters with marked-up text depend to some degree on the rules of the markup language in question and the set of elements it contains. In a narrow sense, this document concerns itself only with XML, and to some extent HTML. However, much of the general information presented here should be useful in a broader context, including some page layout languages.
Note: Many of the recommendations of this report depend on the availability of particular markup or styling. Where possible, appropriate DTDs or Schemas should be used or designed to make such markup or styling available, or the DTDs or Schemas used should be appropriately extended. The current version of this document makes no specific recommendations for the design of DTDs or Schemas, or for the use of particular DTDs or Schemas, but the information presented here may be useful to designers of DTDs and Schemas, and to people selecting DTDs or Schemas for their applications. The recommendations of this report do not apply in the case of XML used for blind data transport and similar cases.
This report uses XML [XML] as a prominent and general example of markup. The XML namespace notation [Namespace] is used to indicate that a certain element is taken from a specific markup language. As an example, the prefix 'xhtml:' indicates that this element is taken from [XHTML]. This means that the examples containing the namespace prefix 'xhtml:' are assumed to include a namespace declaration of xmlns:xhtml="..."
Characters are denoted using the notation used in the Unicode Standard, i.e. an optional U+ followed by their hexadecimal number, using at least 4 digits, such as "U+1234" or "U+10FFFD". In XML or HTML this could be expressed as "ሴ" or "􏿽".
There are several general points to consider when looking at the interaction between character encoding and markup.
Encoding text as a sequence of characters without further information leads to a linear sequence, commonly called plain text. Character follows character, without any particular structure. Markup, on the other hand, defines a hierarchical structure for the text or data. In the case of XML and most other, similar markup languages, the markup defines a tree structure. While this tree structure is linearized for transmission in the XML document, once the document has been parsed, the tree is available directly.
Operations that are easy to perform on trees are often difficult to perform on linear sequences and vice versa. By separating functionality between character encoding and markup appropriately, the architecture becomes simpler, more powerful and longer-lasting.
In particular, operations on hierarchical structures can easily make sure that information is kept in context. Attributes assigned to parts of a document are moved together with the associated part of the document. Assigning an attribute to a part of a document limits the scope of the attribute to that part of the document. Performing the same operations on linear sequences of characters using control codes to set attributes and to delimit their scope requires much more work and is error prone. Locating the start or end of a span of text of the same attribute requires scanning backwards and forwards for the embedded delimiter or control code. Moving or editing text often results in mismatched control codes, so that an attribute might suddenly apply to text it was not intended for.
When markup is not available, plain text may require control characters. This is usually the case where plain text must contain some scoping or attribute information in order to be legible, i.e. to be able to transmit the same content between originator and receiver. Many of these control characters have direct equivalents in particular markup languages, since markup handles these concerns efficiently. If both characters and their markup equivalents may be present in the same text, the question of priority is raised. Therefore it is important to identify and resolve these ambiguities at the time markup is first applied.
Besides the basic character encoding and text markup there is a third contributor to text functionality, namely styling. Markup is concerned with the logical structure of the text or data, e.g. to indicate sections, subsections, and headers in a document, or to indicate the various fields of an address record. Styling is used to present the information in various ways, e.g. in different fonts, different type styles (italic, bold), different colors, etc. Some character codes do not encode a generic character, but a styled character. Where these characters are used, styling information is frozen, i.e. it is no longer possible to alter the appearance of the text by applying style information. However, there are many examples where a historically free stylistic variation has over time become a semantic distinction that is properly encoded as plain text. Sometimes, what is a free variation in some contexts, implies strict semantic differentiation in others. In all such instances, altering the appearance of the text by styling information would irreparably alter the content of the text.
Dealing with various functionalities on the markup level has the additional advantage that in most cases, text portions that need some particular attribute (or styling) are actually those text portions identified by markup. A paragraph may be in French, a citation may need a bidi embedding, a keyword may be in italics, a list number may be circled, etc.. This makes it very efficient to associate those attributes with markup.
However, where local or point-like functionality is needed, markup is not very efficient and its main benefit, easy manipulation of scope, is not required. On the contrary, the intrusion of markup in the middle of words can make search or sort operations more difficult. For these cases expressing the information as character codes is not only a viable, but often the preferred alternative, which needs to be considered in the design of markup languages.
Character encoding works with a range of integers used as character codes. This is extremely efficient, but has some limitations. Markup, on the other hand, is much more extensible. Using technologies such as XML Namespaces [Namespace], various vocabularies can be mixed.
The suitability of a particular character for markup depends on its status in the Unicode Standard, the nature of its behavior in text and the availability of equivalent markup. Many format characters that are needed for advanced plain text are not suitable for use with markup. Section 3 gives a list and detailed descriptions. However, not all format characters are unsuitable for use with markup. Section 4 provides a list of format characters that are suitable for use with markup and gives some discussion about their use. In addition to format characters, the Unicode Standard also has compatibility characters, some of which may be replaceable by suitable markup. These characters are discussed in Section 5.
There are characters which are unsuitable in the context of markup in XML/HTML and whose use is discouraged, because one or more of the following conditions apply:
Section 3.1 provides a list of such characters. Sections 3.2 through 3.9 discuss in more detail the following points for the discouraged characters.
The following table contains the characters currently considered not suitable for use with markup in XML or HTML. (See however the note in the Introduction.) They may also be unsuitable for other markup or page layout languages. For determining possible conflict this report uses the markup available in HTML.
Table 3.1 Characters not suitable for use with markup
|U+2028 .. U+2029||Line and paragraph separator||use <xhtml:br />, <xhtml:p></xhtml:p>, or equivalent|
|U+202A .. U+202E||BIDI embedding controls
(LRE, RLE, LRO, RLO, PDF)
|Strongly discouraged in [HTML 4.0]|
|U+206A .. U+206B||Activate/Inhibit Symmetric swapping||Deprecated in Unicode|
|U+206C .. U+206D||Activate/Inhibit Arabic form shaping||Deprecated in Unicode|
|U+206E .. U+206F||Activate/Inhibit National digit shapes||Deprecated in Unicode|
|U+FFF9 .. U+FFFB||Interlinear annotation characters||Use ruby markup [Ruby]|
|U+FEFF||Byte order mark / ZWNBSP||Use only as byte order mark. Use U+2060 Word Joiner instead of using U+FEFF as ZWNBSP|
|U+FFFC||Object replacement character||Use markup, e.g. HTML <object> or HTML <img>|
|U+1D173..U+1D173A||Scoping for Musical Notation||Use an appropriate markup language|
|U+E0000 .. U+E007F||Language Tag codepoints||Use xhtml:lang or xml:lang|
Except for Line and Paragraph Separator, or the Byte Order Mark, it is acceptable for browsers and similar user agents to ignore the presence of discouraged characters in HTML or XML. It is up to authoring tools to ensure proper conversion between these characters and equivalent markup where it exists.
Short description: The line and paragraph separator provide unambiguous means to denote hard line breaks and paragraph delimiters in plain text.
Reason for inclusion: These characters were introduced into the Unicode Standard to overcome the ambiguous and widely divergent use of control codes for this purpose. See Unicode Technical Report #13, Unicode Newline Guidelines [UAX13].
Problems when used in markup: Including these characters in markup text does not work where it would duplicate the existing markup commands for delimiting paragraphs and lines.
Problems with other uses: The separator characters can also problematic when used in plain text, because legacy data is usually converted code point for code point into Unicode and all receivers of Unicode plain text have to effectively be able to interpret the existing use of control codes for this purpose. As a result, fewer Unicode implementations support these characters, than would be the case otherwise.
Replacement markup: In HTML, use <xhtml:br /> instead of U+2028 and surround paragraphs by <xhtml:p> and </xhtml:p> instead of separating them with U+2029.
What to do if detected: In a browser context, treat as whitespace. When received in an editing context, replace the character by the corresponding markup.
Short description: The bidi embedding controls are required to supplement the Unicode Bidirectional Algorithm in plain text
Reason for inclusion: The Unicode Bidirectional algorithm unambiguously resolves the display direction for bidirectional text. It does so by assigning all characters directional categories and then resolving these in context. In a small number of circumstances this implicit method does not produce satisfactory results and embedding controls are needed to ensure that sender and receiver agree on the display direction for a given text. See Unicode Technical Report #9, The Bidirectional Algorithm [UAX 9].
Problems when used in markup: These characters duplicate available markup, which is better suited to handle the stateful nature of their effect.
Problems with other uses: The embedding controls introduce a state into the plain text, which must be maintained when editing or displaying the text. Processes that are modifying the text without being aware of this state may inadvertently affect the rendering of large portions of the text, for example by removing a PDF.
Replacement markup: The following table gives the replacement
Unicode Equivalent markup Comment
<xhtml:bdo dir = "rtl">
<xhtml:bdo dir = "ltr"> </xhtml:bdo> when used to terminate RLO or LRO only, otherwise ignore RLE dir = "rtl" attribute on block or inline element LRE dir = "ltr" attribute on block or inline element
For details on bidi markup, please see Section 8.2 of HTML [HMTL 4.0-8.2]. The text of HTML 4.0 gives this recommendation:
Using HTML directionality markup with Unicode characters. Authors and designers of authoring software should be aware that conflicts can arise if the dir attribute is used on inline elements (including BDO) concurrently with the corresponding [UNICODE] formatting characters. Preferably one or the other should be used exclusively. The markup method offers a better guarantee of document structural integrity and alleviates some problems when editing bidirectional HTML text with a simple text editor, but some software may be more apt at using the [UNICODE] characters. If both methods are used, great care should be exercised to insure proper nesting of markup and directional embedding or override, otherwise, rendering results are undefined.
This document goes beyond HTML and recommends that only the markup should be used.
What to do if detected: In a browser context, ignore. When received in an editing context, replace the characters by the appropriate markup.
Short description: These characters are deprecated. They were originally intended to allow explicit activation of contextual shaping, numeric digit rendering and symmetric swapping.
Reason for inclusion: These characters were retained from draft versions of ISO 10646.
Problems when used in markup: The processing model for these characters is not supported in markup.
Problems with other uses: The Unicode Standard requires that symmetric swapping, contextual shaping, and alternate digit shapes are enabled by default and no longer supports inhibiting any of them by use of these character codes. The most likely effect of their occurrence in generated text would be that of a 'garbage' character.
Conversion for use with markup: Apply the appropriate conversion to bring the data stream in line with the Unicode text model for bidirectional text and cursively-connected scripts.
What to do if detected: When received by a browser as part of marked up text, they may be ignored. When received in an editing context, they may be removed, possibly with a warning. Alternatively, an appropriate conversion from the legacy text model may be provided. This will most likely be limited to applications directly interfacing with and knowledgeable of the particular legacy implementation that inspired these characters.
Short description: U+FEFF has two functions. It is formally known as zero width no-break space (ZWNBSP), and can act as a word joiner, but its primary use is as byte order mark (BOM), to indicate in a file signature that a file is in a Unicode encoding form and of a particular byte order. Using U+FEFF as a word joiner in new data is deprecated as of [Unicode3.2] in favor of U+2060 WORD JOINER. The use as byte order mark remains unaffected.
Reason for inclusion: Originally included in Unicode for the sole purpose of indicating byte order or use in file signatures, the character acquired the ZWNBSP semantics as part of the merger between ISO/IEC 10646 and Unicode. When used as a byte order mark the character is placed at the beginning of a file. If a recipient views it as FEFF then the byte order between sender and receiver match. If the recipient views it as FFFE (a non-character code point) then the sender used opposite byte order from the recipient, and the recipient needs to invert the byte order or refuse to read the file. When used as a ZWBSP the character is intended to prevent breaks between adjacent characters. This function is now provided by U+2060 zero width word joiner (ZWJ) making it unnecessary to insert U+FEFF in the middle of a file. For more information see Chapter 15 of [Unicode].
Problems when used in markup: Using U+FEFF as ZWNBSP makes it impossible to distinguish it from the case where a byte order mark was left in the middle of a file inadvertently due to incorrect splicing.
Problems with other uses: The use of byte order mark as ZWNBSP is also problematic when used in plain text, and has been deprecated for that purpose in favor of U+2060 word joiner. The use of U+FEFF in file signatures to indicate byte order is the only recommended use of this character.
Replacement markup: None.
What to do if detected: When received by a browser as part of marked-up text, treat depending on location. At the start of an external entity, treat as byte order mark (i.e. as part of the character encoding, not as part of the parsed character stream, see e.g. Section 4.3.3 of [XML 1.0]). Otherwise, assume it is older data using it as ZWNBSP. When receiving plain text in an editing environment, editors may take one or more of several actions: replace ZWNBSP in the middle of a file with ZWJ or issue a warning to the user.
Short description: The interlinear annotation characters are used to delimit interlinear annotations in certain circumstances. They are intended to provide text anchors and delimiters for interlinear annotation for in-process use and are not intended for interchange.
Reason for inclusion: The interlinear annotation characters were included in Unicode only in order to reserve code points for very frequent application-internal use. The interlinear annotation characters are used to delimit interlinear annotations in contexts where other delimiters are not available, and where non-textual means exist to carry formatting information. Many text-processing applications store the text and the associated markup (or in some cases styling information) of a document in separate structures. The actual text is kept in a single linear structure; additional information is kept separately with pointers to the appropriate text positions. This is called out-of-band information. The overall implementation makes sure that these two structures are kept in sync. If the text contains interlinear annotations, it is extremely helpful for implementations to have delimiters in the text itself; even though delimiters are not otherwise used for style markup. With this method, and unlike the case of the object replacement character, all textual information can remain in the standard text stream, but any additional formatting information is kept separately. In addition, the Interlinear Annotation Anchor serves as a placeholder for formatting information for the whole annotation object, the same way a paragraph mark can be a placeholder to attach paragraph formatting information.
Problems when used in markup: Including interlinear annotation characters in marked-up text does not work because the additional formatting information (how to position the annotation,...) is not available.
Problems with other uses: The interlinear annotation characters are also problematic when used in plain text, and are not intended for that purpose. In particular, on older display systems that simply ignore or replace the Interlinear Annotation Characters, the meaning of the text may be changed.
Replacement markup: The markup to be used in place of the Interlinear Annotation Characters depends on the formatting and nature of the interlinear annotation in question. For ruby, please see [Ruby].
What to do if detected: When received by a browser as part of marked-up text, they may be ignored. When receiving plain text in an editing environment, editors may take one or more of several actions: remove U+FFF9 together with removing all characters between U+FFFA and following U+FFFB; ignore U+FFF9 and turn U+FFFA and U+FFFB into "[" and "]" respectively, or into similar characters; issue a warning to the user; or tentatively convert into appropriate ruby markup for further editing and formatting by the user.
Short description: The object replacement character is used to stand in place of an object (e.g. an image) included in a text.
Reason for inclusion: The object replacement character was included in Unicode only in order to reserve a codepoint for a very frequent application-internal use. Many text-processing applications store the text and the associated markup (or in some cases styling information) of a document in separate structures. The actual text is kept in a single linear structure; additional information is kept separately with pointers to the appropriate text positions. The overall implementation makes sure that these two structures are kept in sync. If the text contains objects such as images, it is extremely helpful for implementations to have a sentinel in the text itself; any additional information is kept separately.
Problems when used in markup: Including an object replacement character in markup text does not work because the additional information (what object to include,...) is not available.
Problems with other uses: The object replacement character is also problematic when used in plain text, because there is no way in plain text to provide the actual object information or a reference to it.
Replacement markup: The markup to be used in place of the Object Replacement Character depends on the object in question and the markup context it is used in. Typical cases are <xhtml:img src='...' />, <xhtml:object ...>, or <applet ...>. These constructs allow providing all additional information needed to identify and use the object in question.
What to do if detected: Browsers may ignore this character. When received in an editing context, if the actual object is accessible, editors may either replace the character by the appropriate markup for that object, or otherwise remove it, ideally providing a warning.
Short description: A series of characters for controlling scope in musical notation.
Reason for inclusion: These characters designate the start and end of common musical constructs. Full musical layout depends on additional information, for example pitch, that cannot be encoded using Unicode. However, many musical symbols may be depicted in isolation (and without assigning pitch) as part of a textual discussion of music. Plain text use of Unicode characters is primarily intended for this latter purpose. The scoping operators can be used to support limited renderings of beams, slurs, phrases, etc. in this context. However, in the context of markup languages, musical scoring calls for a dedicated markup language (analogous to MathML) which would be expected to contain markup for these constructs.
Problems when used in markup: These characters duplicate information that can in principle be expressed in markup.
Problems with other uses: Their special code range allows them to be easily filtered, but applications that do not expect them will treat them as garbage characters.
Replacement markup: Replace with equivalent markup if available.
What to do if detected: Browsers may ignore these characters. When received in an editing context, editors may remove or replace them by equivalent markup.
Short description: A series of characters for expressing language tags, based on existing standards for language tags using the rules in Chapter 15 of [Unicode].
Reason for inclusion: These characters allow in-band language tagging in situations where full markup is not available, while allowing easy filtering by applications that do not support them. They were solely included for the benefit of those Internet protocols, such as ACAP, which require a standard mechanism for marking language in UTF-8 strings, and at the same time to avoid the use of other tagging schemes that relied on specific details of the encoding form used.
Problems when used in markup: These characters duplicate information that can be expressed in markup.
Problems with other uses: Their special code range allows them to be easily filtered, but applications that do not expect them will treat them as garbage characters.
Replacement markup: Replace with equivalent language markup. XML and XHTML have the xml:lang attribute. HTML has the lang attribute. These attributes follow different scoping rules than the tag characters, therefore this replacement will generally not be a simple 1:1 substitution.
What to do if detected: Browsers may ignore these characters. When received in an editing context, editors may remove or replace them by equivalent markup.
The following table contains format characters that do not exhibit the problems discussed at the start of this section. Despite their apparent relation to or similarity with characters in table 3.1, they are considered suitable for use with markup. It is not acceptable for user agents to ignore the characters in table 4.1. For a description of these characters see [Unicode].
Table 4.1: Some characters that affect text format but are suitable for use with markup
|U+00A0||No-break space||In Latin-1|
|U+00AD||Soft Hyphen||In Latin-1|
|U+0363||Combining Grapheme Joiner|
|U+0600||ARABIC NUMBER SIGN||Subtending mark|
|U+0601||ARABIC SIGN SANAH||Subtending mark|
|U+0602||ARABIC FOOTNOTE MARKER||Subtending mark|
|U+0603||ARABIC SIGN SAFHA||Subtending mark|
|U+06DD||ARABIC END OF AYAH||Enclosing mark|
|U+070C||Syriac Abbreviation Mark (SAM)||Supertending mark|
|U+0F0C||Tibetan tsheg mark|
|U+180B..U+180E||Mongolian Variation Selectors(FVS1.. FVS3), Mongolian Vowel Separator||Required for Mongolian|
|U+200C..U+200D||Zero-width Joiners (ZWJ and ZWNJ)||Required for a.o. Persian|
|U+200E..U+200F||Implicit directional marks (LRM and RLM)||LRM and RLM are allowed|
|U+2011||Non breaking Hyphen|
|U+202F||Narrow No-break Space|
|U+2044||Fraction Slash||Or use markup (MathML)|
|U+2060||Word Joiner||Use instead of ZWNBSP|
|U+2061||Function Application||Mathematical use|
|U+2062||Invisible Times||Mathematical use|
|U+2063||Invisible Comma||Mathematical use|
|U+2FF0..U+2FFB||Ideographic character description||Graphic characters (not controls)|
|U+303E||Ideographic variation indicator||Graphic character (not a control)|
|FE00..FE0F||Variation Selectors||Not graphic characters|
|E0100..E01DF||Variation Selectors||Not graphic characters|
The following subsections briefly discuss some of the characters from the above list, particularly those that affect more than their immediately adjacent neighbors. Please see the Unicode Standard [Unicode] for full details.
Subtending marks are needed to represent a common feature in the Arabic and Syriac scripts where a mark can be placed below a range of characters, for example below a sequence of digits, to indicate a year. The Syriac abbreviation mark is placed above a series of characters, making it technically a supertending mark, and the ARABIC END OF AYAH is an enclosing mark. In the character stream, a subtending mark precedes the affected characters. The end of affected range of characters is defined implicitly, usually by the first non-alphanumeric character.
Unlike subtending marks, the scope of combining enclosing marks, such as combining enclosing circle, is limited to the preceding default grapheme cluster. For details on grapheme clusters see [UAX 29] Text Boundaries.
There is currently no existing markup that can represent the scoping and layout functions defined by these characters, so they cannot be substituted. It is unresolved to what degree intervening markup affects the scope of these marks.
The fraction slash is used between sequences of decimal digits to form fractions. Whether the resulting fraction has a horizontal or diagonal fraction line is unspecified. The fallback is to leave the digits unchanged and display a regular slash. In order to separate a digit from a following fraction, as in 1 ¾, the use of U+2009 THIN SPACE is recommended.
For better control of fractions the use of [MathML] is suggested where appropriate.
A variation selector is intended to cause a specific variant form (or range of variant forms) when applied to a base character. For a variation selector to have an effect it must immediately follow its base character. Only pre-determined combinations of selected base characters and specific variation selectors have a defined effect. All other combinations are ill-formed and are to be ignored. The list of standardized combinations is documented in the Unicode Character Database, see [Variants]. In addition to the 256 generic variation selectors, there are 3 Mogolan free variation selectors. They function in all other ways like variation selectors, except they only apply to base characters from the Mongolian script. Since Mongolian, like Arabic, has positional character shapes, the variations are limited to particular shaping contexts.
Ideographic Description Characters are included in the Unicode Standard as a means to indicate the composition of ideographs from a combination of pieces, where each piece in term is either a Unicode character or composed. Ordinarily the result would be a human readable description of a character, perhaps one for which a font is not available. However, at least some vendors are interested in automatic conversion of these sequences into single ideographs.
The Unicode Standard provides compatibility mappings for a number of characters. Compatibility mappings indicate a relationship to another character, but the exact nature of the relationship varies. In some cases the relationship means "is based on" in some other cases it denotes a property. When plain text is marked up, it may make sense to map some of these characters to their compatibility equivalents and suitable markup. It is important to understand the nature of the distinctions between characters and their compatibility equivalents and the context in which these distinctions matter. It is never advisable to apply compatibility mappings indiscriminately. This section provides guidance on when and how to apply compatibility mappings in the case of importing text from non-XML (non-marked-up) sources. The section is organized by the "compatibility tag" associated with each compatibility mapping.
The following table gives an overview of the various compatibility characters, organized by "compatibility tag". The first column, Tag value, contains the value of the "compatibility tag" from the Unicode Character Database [UnicodeData]. Although these tags use "<" and ">", they do not appear as such in markup and should not be confused with XML tags. Code range indicates a further break down by code points. Action summarizes the recommended action to be taken whenever markup is first applied to non-XML text. Each entry indicates whether the characters can be substituted using the compatibility equivalent according to Normalization Form KC of [UAX 15], can be replaced by equivalent markup where available, or should be retained. For some cases, instead of or in addition to markup, style information [CSS2] is needed. Description and usage provides additional information. Sections 5.3 through 5.6 provide additional information for some of these sets of compatibility characters including detailed recommended actions.
Table 5.1 Characters with compatibility mappings
|Tag value||Code range||Action||Description and usage|
|<circled>||all||retain||Circled letters and digits used for list item markers|
|<compat>||2002..200A||retain||Fixed width spaces|
|2100..2101||retain||Variant letter forms that are used as symbols|
|2105..2106||retain||Variant letter forms that are used as symbols|
|2121, 213B||retain||For use as single code point in vertical layout|
|2160..2175||retain, or use list item marker style||For use as single code point in vertical layout, or as list item marker|
|2474..249B||use list item marker style||Parenthesized or dotted number used as list item marker|
|249C..24B5||use list item marker style or normalize||Parenthesized letters used as list item markers|
|3131..318E||retain||Compatibility Hangul Jamo. These do not conjoin|
|3200..3229||use list item marker style||Parenthesized characters used as list item markers|
|322A..3243||retain||Parenthesized characters used as symbols in vertical layout|
|32C0..32CB||retain||String used as single code point in vertical layout|
|all other||retain||Maintain, semantic distinctions apply|
|<final>||all||normalize||Arabic Presentation forms|
|<font>||all||retain||Variant letter forms that are used as symbols|
|<fraction>||all||normalize||As long as fraction slash is supported!|
|<initial>||all||normalize||Arabic Presentation forms|
|<isolated>||all||normalize||Arabic Presentation forms|
|<medial>||all||normalize||Arabic Presentation forms|
|<no-break>||all||retain||The compatibility mapping is merely a way to indicate the equivalent character that is not non-breaking. The distinction must be preserved|
|<small>||all||retain||Precise usage unknown. Maintain, but do not generate|
|<square>||3300..3357||retain||Single display cell cluster containing multiple lines of kana for vertical layout|
|3358..337D||retain||For use as single code point in vertical layout|
|33E0..33FE||retain||For use as single code point in vertical layout|
|all other||retain||Variant letter form used as symbol in vertical layout|
|<super>||all||use <sup> markup||Superscripted characters|
|<sub>||all||use <sub> markup||Subscripted characters|
|<vertical>||all||normalize||East Asian Presentation forms|
Note: Some symbols used in vertical layout exist as single code points in legacy systems, but can also be composed on the fly by more advanced display engines. See [CSS3Text] for proposed style properties text-combining property, which can be used to express squared Kana clusters (kumimoji) and writing-mode, which can be used to express horizontal in vertical (tate-chu-yoko).
Presentation forms and characters for which adequate representation exists as marked up text should never be entered into new data. However, many of the characters with <font> tag are suitable for new data, as long as they are used in the manner they are intended, that is as symbols, with definite semantic differentiation between the different forms. However, they must not be used to create the appearance of styled text. On the other hand, text styles should not be used to carry the essential semantic distinction needed, for example for mathematics.
For example to write hello, one should use <i>hello</i> and not the sequence of Unicode characters U+210E, U+212F, U+2113, U+2113, U+2134. Conversely, to indicate Planck's constant one should use U+210E and not <i>h</i>.
Short description: Characters with a <circled> tag or characters with <compat> tag and compatibility mapping to a parenthesized string.
Reason for inclusion: They are most frequently used for marking enumerated list items, but the characters with a <circled> tag often occur as dingbats or footnote markers in tables. The same characters are used in regular text when citing an item from a numbered list.
Problems when used in markup: These characters do not cause undue interaction with markup
Problems with other uses: None
Replacement markup: (list item style) When generating marked up text these characters occur only internal to the user agent when list item styles are rendered. When marking up plain text data they could be converted to suitable list item styles, if such use can be properly inferred. However, it is often necessary to refer to numbered or lettered list item markers in the text.
Compatibility mappings of the form (n) or (n.) can be kept as single characters, or replaced by list item marker styles. A conversion to list item marker styles allows a simple extension of the set to arbitrary numbers. This is in contrast to circled characters: Support to properly generate arbitrary circled numbers is not commonly available, therefore conversion to list item marker styles does not easily allow an extension of the set of accessible circled numbers.
What to do if detected: No action needs to be taken by browsers. When received in an editing context, substitution of a list item marker style may be appropriate. However, the same characters are very often used as dingbat-like symbols in tables, or may appear in general text, when referring to an item from a list. Therefore the user must have the choice of whether to replace the character.
Short description: Single character fractions such as ½ or ¼.
Reason for inclusion: Subsets of these occur in practically all legacy character sets.
Problems when used in markup: The repertoire is limited to a few common fractions. When used with more general methods of generating fractions such as MathML [MathML] the usual problem of dual representation arises.
Problems with other uses: Other than normalization issues, these characters present no undue problems in plain text. Where fraction slash is supported, these can be expressed by substituting their compatibility mappings.
Replacement markup: MathML.
What to do if detected: No action needs to be taken by browsers or editors, except when converting plain text to MathML.
Short description: Characters that are symbols composed of groups of typically kana or Latin letters, digits plus slash for use in a single display cell in vertical display of text.
Reason for inclusion: Many existing character sets contain these as precomposed characters since for simple implementations this is the only way to support the common use of providing metric units and other abbreviations in a single character cell for vertical text layout.
Problems when used in markup: Proposed markup, including CSS styling, would be able express an unbounded set of these abbreviations, obviating the need of cataloguing these in the character encoding standard and making them more directly accessible to text based processing, for example searching.
Problems with other uses: The repertoire of these legacy characters is limited; many more combinations are in actual use than are accounted for in character sets. Pre-composed symbols do not make their text content available to search engines. They also require re-encoding for text laid out horizontally.
Replacement markup: The style property text-combine in the CSS3 module: text Working Draft [CSS3Text].
What to do if detected: No action required. (Subject to change pending the outcome of current proposals.)
Short description: Mainly super and subscript digits, but also signs, parentheses and some letters.
Reason for inclusion: Super and subscript characters occur in many legacy character sets, including Latin-1. Their use in pure plain text is common for databases, e.g. including metric units for part descriptions (viz. cm2) or (usually simplified) formulae as occur in titles of scientific publications. Super and subscripted letters and digits are quite common in some forms of phonetic or phonemic transcriptions. In particular, superscripted small digits are often used to indicate tone.
Problems when used in markup: Using these characters directly in markup provides an alternate representation compared to marked up text, leading to different treatment by search engines. However, when super and sub-scripts are to reflect semantic distinctions, it is easier to work with these meanings encoded in text rather than markup, for example, in phonetic or phonemic transcription. When exporting to plain text, they may be inadvertently changed to normal style text. For super or subscripted letters in phonetic transcription in particular that would alter the meaning. On the other hand, some user agent may support certain super or subscripted characters only when used as marked up text.
Problems with other uses: none
Replacement markup:<xhtml:sup> and <xhtml:sub> or <mathml:msup> and <mathml:msub>
What to do if detected: No action required.
Short description: The <compat> label was given to a set of compatibility characters whose further classification was not settled at the time the standard was created. The largest components are list item marker characters.
Reason for inclusion: These characters occur in many legacy character sets.
Problems when used in markup: none. There usually is no equivalent markup.
Problems with other uses: none
Replacement markup: none.
What to do if detected: No action required.
The Unicode Standard defines 66 non-character code points, or noncharacters. These are the last two positions on each of the 17 planes, in other words, all characters whose code points end in ...FFFE or ...FFFF, as well as the 32 code points from U+FDD0 to U+FDEF. Applications are free to use any of these code points internally but should never attempt to interchange them. In effect, noncharacters can be thought of as application-internal private-use code points.
This report will be updated by the Unicode Technical Committee in cooperation with the W3C Internationalization WG whenever the tables of characters in this document need to be updated as a result of the addition of characters to the Unicode Standard, as a result of a revised determination of the suitability of a given character for use with markup, or when additional background information or recommendations become available.
Each report carries a revision number, which may be used to refer to a specific version of the report. Older versions of the report will remain available. Each version of this report specifies the underlying version of the Unicode Standard.
For more information on the Unicode Standard and its versions, see:
In the context of the Unicode Standard, the material in this technical report is informative. However, other documents, particularly markup language specifications, may specify conformance including normative references to this document. Such references may have to be updated as a result of future updates to this report as discussed in Section 7.
Mark Davis (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Hideki Hiura (email@example.com) contributed to the early drafts.
Changes from http://www.unicode.org/reports/tr20/tr20-6.html: Added entries for new characters in Unicode 4.0. Separated out, and extended, the discussion of format characters suitable for markup. This resulted in a new section 2.6, moving section 3.2 to 4, and renumbering, as well as new sections 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4. Added a discussion on noncharacters in a new section 6. Updated reference from Unicode 3.1 and 3.2 to Unicode 4.0. Improved the layout an description of what is now table 5.1 Changed the recommended action in 5.6 to none. Updated the Unicode status section. Changed http://www.unicode.org/unicode/reports/ to http://www.unicode.org/reports throughout to reflect the preferred style of URL (older style URLs continue to be valid). Updated references to W3C publications. (AF/MJD)
Changes from http://www.unicode.org/reports/tr20/tr20-5.html: Updated reference from Unicode 3.0 to 3.1 and 3.2 where appropriate. Added sections 3.6 and 3.9. Minor wording fixes in sections 2.3, 3.1, 3.2, 3.6, 3.10, 4.3, 4.5 and 5. (AF/MJD)
Changes from http://www.unicode.org/reports/tr20/tr20-4.html: Added a note to the introduction to limit the scope. Reorganized section 3 and clarified the language. Renamed some sections and tables. Updated the document to prepare for publication as Unicode Technical Report and W3C Note (AF/MJD). Minor editorial changes to the text, added section 4.7, fixed some dates, plus a few typos. (AF)
Changes from http://www.unicode.org/reports/tr20/tr20-3.html: Minor editorial changes to the introduction, fixed some references, links, and dates, plus a few typos. (AF/MJD)
Changes from http://www.unicode.org/reports/tr20/tr20-2.html: Added sections 2.1-2.6 (MJD), sections 3.1-3.5, and 3.8, as well as sections 4.4-4.6 and 8 (AF). Edited text for publication as DRAFT Unicode Technical Report. (AF)
Changes from http://www.unicode.org/reports/tr20/tr20-1.html: Completed references, linked TOC. Various wording changes. Added W3C WD stylesheet, logo, copyright, status of this document. Streamlined authors' section. (MJD) Added material on compatibility characters. (AF)
Changes from the initial draft: Fixed the header. Fixed the numbering. Fixed the title. Put references to final version of data files based on naming conventions. Minor wording changes. Added proposed language on annotation characters to match example on FFFC. Posted for internal review by UTC and W3C. (AF)
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