Unicode Explained Paperback – 1 Jul 2006
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From the Publisher
Possessing everything you need to grasp Unicode, this comprehensive reference takes you on a detailed guide through the complex character world. Learn how to identify and classify characters, utilize their properties, and process data in a robust manner. Other topics include collation and sorting, line breaking rules and Unicode encodings. Perfect for both beginning and seasoned programmers.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
This is much more than a book about Unicode. Korpela goes further, explaining about code pages, writing systems, language differences, encoding, implementation issues, programming. Even after many years in this business, there was much that was new to me.
I do have a criticism, however: the book is from 2006 and as it contains a great deal of information about particular programs and operating systems, and URLs to web resources, some of this information quickly became stale. There is an online site which is supposed to contain updates and errata, but it is not being updated.
That aside, I would highly recommend this book if you need to work with languages on computers.
Worth the buy, but not the size.
I had a tough technical problem to solve and didn't even have the correct vocabulary to describe it.
Of the three books I bought to help, this is the one I turned to most frequently.
The historical element is interesting, but the technical sections really aid understanding the various flavours of unicode, and what benefits can be had from a successful implementation.
This is now part of my reference library for technical issues, and I'm frequently being asked to contribute to character-based discussions, due to my new found understanding and the assistance I can now offer.
Well worth the time and effort to read it.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
¶ I had another Unicode book on my desk for a long time. Hardbound, thick, impressive. Never found a way to derive useful information from it however. This book is different.
¶ I had high expectations for this book because the author, Jukka Korpela, is one of those erudite and patient people who work hard to raise the signal to noise ratio in Internet newsgroups and other forums. I certainly have quite a few posts from "Yucca" in my working archive of Web tips.
¶ Working with Web pages and applications, one can run into practical problems with text display. For Americans especially, often using default software configurations, some of the problems of displaying content in other languages can seem intractable. They are not of course -- but a bit of help from workers in the rest of the world can be a real lift. After all, they deal with these issues in a practical way more often.
¶ I had a nasty run-in (also known as "learning experience") with browser display issues when my "CSS Cheatsheet" rose in popularity in Google and other search engines. I decided to create a page quoting comments from linking sites in their native languages. Everything was fine until I got to Russian. I felt as if I were up against a conspiracy of browsers, tools, operating systems and even particular custom configurations!
¶ If you are like me and your focus is practical, I recommend:
The first two chapters in Part 1: Characters as Data; Writing Characters
All the advanced topics in Part 3: these 5 chapters covered character issues involved with programming and developing in the Internet environment.
¶ Overall, this book is well-organized and quite readable, with lots of relevant illustrations. Important material is repeated and summarized for greater clarity. The author also used lots of examples from Windows programs that are familiar to many of us. This is a real plus.
Part 1 - Working with Characters: Characters as Data; Writing Characters; Character Sets and Encoding
Part 2 - A Systematic Look at Unicode: The Structure of Unicode; Properties of Characters; Unicode Encodings
Part 3 - Advanced Unicode Topics: Characters and Languages; Character Usage; The Character Level and Above; Characters in Internet Protocols; Characters in Programming
Appendix - Tables for Writing Characters; Index
In concept, Unicode is real simple. An expanded character set using 16 bit encoding, and you can accommodate far more languages and symbols than straight ASCII. But the implementation is far more complex than that. Korpela starts with the basics of characters... what they are, what they mean, and the nuances involved. From there, you learn about how applications have to interpret the different encoding standards and handle things like case, sort orders, line breaks, etc. When I saw the size of the book (600+ pages), I wondered if the material was just a lot of reference tables that could be found online. Gladly, it's not... This is an exploration of everything that is Unicode, and you'd have to wade through a lot of web pages to even begin to glean the level and value of information that you'll find here.
If you have anything to do with programming or designing global software, this book purchase is a no-brainer. And even if you're not doing anything in that area right now, this is one of those reference titles that is worth having on your bookshelf and available for the first time you *do* need it. It won't take long to pay for itself...
The only thing disappointing about this book is that all of his examples and screen shots are for and from Windows. A reader could come away with the feeling that Mac OS X and Linux don't have as much support for Unicode as Windows which, of course, is not the case at all. The least he could have done is to mention and give screenshots of Linux's "Character Map" app and Mac OS X's built-in "Character Palette", both of which are pretty much just like the Windows "Character Map" app.
I'm surprised O'Reilly allowed a book about such a platform-neutral subject to be so Windows-centric. Hopefully they can hire someone to add Linux and Mac OS X examples into the second edition.
I realized that the whole subject is a lot more complicated than I initially thought and the number of questions that needed an answer to move forward with what I was doing increased significantly. I was finding stuff on the web, a little bit here and a little bit there and had it one day, because progress was slow.
I stumbled one day across this book via a Google search, which returned passages from it from its Google Book search results. I found a very good answer to one of my questions and answers to some other questions that were lying around unanswered from before. I checked the index of the book to see what subjects it covers and realized that it pretty much covers all of them. So I went ahead to Amazon and bought it right there and then.
I am glad to this day that I found it and can recommend it to anybody who has only little or no knowledge of Unicode and struggles with getting a grip on all those standards for data encoding, which make it hard to keep the data within XML and text files intact across platforms and prevent your XML based application or tool from breaking because of illegal data in your content.
Its side notes are also interesting - explaining things like Arabic right-to-left with its contextual characters with 4 different forms; or how they mused over using one common Chinese Han character to be shared by Japanese , Koreans and Vietnamese versus including a version of each in their languages' ranges of individually separate characters.
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