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Re: [Nmh-workers] UTF=8 in message bodies

From: Ken Hornstein
Subject: Re: [Nmh-workers] UTF=8 in message bodies
Date: Tue, 04 Dec 2012 10:49:26 -0500

>What are the de-facto and de-jure standards for UTF-8, non-ASCII
>characters in message bodies. I don't originate non-ASCII characters,
>but sometimes I include text from elsewhere, such as incoming Email,
>which does contain them.

My personal opinion, based on observation and is probably wrong:

• De-facto, AS LONG AS THE EMAIL HAS PROPER MIME HEADERS, it should all work
• De-jure, this is true in my experience.  UTF-8 is generally where things are
  headed and nearly everyone can handle it now.
• However, just because you have properly encoded UTF-8 doesn't mean that
  the recipient will be able to read it; that depends on the fonts of
  the recipient.  A ß probably will work fine.  However, 💩 will
  probably not (even though it's valid UTF-8).  With combining characters
  all bets are off.
• If you included UTF-8 in a message without proper MIME headers, then it will
  either a) work fine for the recipient, or b) you'll get mojibake, like you
  see on web pags now and then (probably the recipient will assume ISO-8859).
  I don't know of a way to predict one or the other.
• Make sure you run mhbuild ("mime" in whatnow) on a message with UTF-8
  characters, it will take care of the right magic.  Although it always
  picks quoted-printable as the encoding, which I'm personally not happy

>Can I be reasonably sure that any likely Email client out there will
>handle them?

See above, but the answer (I believe) is yes.  nmh doesn't do great by
default on MIME, but hopefully we'll do better in the future.

>On I related note, maybe nmh should have some kind of a utility
>to check a message's compliance with various standards. (Yes, I'm
>violating the single subject precept of "Toward an Ethics and Etiquette
>for Electronic Mail" The Rand Corporation, R-3283-NSF/RC, July 1985")

Well, if this hypothetical utility existed it would have certainly flagged
your message as violating the >78 column limit :-)


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