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ftfy: fixes text for you

ftfy fixes Unicode that's broken in various ways.

The goal of ftfy is to take in bad Unicode and output good Unicode, for use in your Unicode-aware code. This is different from taking in non-Unicode and outputting Unicode, which is not a goal of ftfy. It also isn't designed to protect you from having to write Unicode-aware code. ftfy helps those who help themselves.

Of course you're better off if your input is decoded properly and has no glitches. But you often don't have any control over your input; it's someone else's mistake, but it's your problem now.

ftfy will do everything it can to fix the problem.


This documentation is for ftfy 5, which runs on Python 3 only, following the plan to drop Python 2 support that was announced in ftfy 3.3.

If you're running on Python 2, ftfy 4.x will keep working for you. In that case, you should add ftfy < 5 to your requirements.


The most interesting kind of brokenness that ftfy will fix is when someone has encoded Unicode with one standard and decoded it with a different one. This often shows up as characters that turn into nonsense sequences (called "mojibake"):

  • The word schön might appear as schön.
  • An em dash () might appear as —.
  • Text that was meant to be enclosed in quotation marks might end up instead enclosed in “ and â€<9d>, where <9d> represents an unprintable character.

This causes your Unicode-aware code to end up with garbage text because someone else (or maybe "someone else") made a mistake.

This happens very often to real text. It's often the fault of software that makes it difficult to use UTF-8 correctly, such as Microsoft Office and some programming languages. The :func:`ftfy.fix_encoding` function will look for evidence of mojibake and, when possible, it will undo the process that produced it to get back the text that was supposed to be there.

Does this sound impossible? It's really not. UTF-8 is a well-designed encoding that makes it obvious when it's being misused, and a string of mojibake usually contains all the information we need to recover the original string.

When ftfy is tested on multilingual data from Twitter, it has a false positive rate of less than 1 per million tweets.

Other fixes

Any given text string might have other irritating properties, possibly even interacting with the erroneous decoding. The main function of ftfy, :func:`ftfy.fix_text`, will fix other problems along the way, such as:

  • The text could contain HTML entities such as &amp; in place of certain characters, when you would rather see what the characters actually are.
  • For that matter, it could contain instructions for a text terminal to do something like change colors, but you are not sending the text to a terminal, so those instructions are just going to look like ^[[30m; or something in the middle of the text.
  • The text could write words in non-standard ways for display purposes, such as using the three characters o p for the word "flop". This can happen when you copy text out of a PDF, for example.
  • It might not be in NFC normalized form. You generally want your text to be NFC-normalized, to avoid situations where unequal sequences of codepoints can represent exactly the same text. You can also opt for ftfy to use the more aggressive NFKC normalization.


Before version 4.0, ftfy used NFKC normalization by default. This covered a lot of helpful fixes at once, such as expanding ligatures and replacing "fullwidth" characters with their standard form. However, it also performed transformations that lose information, such as converting ™ to TM and H₂O to H2O.

The default, starting in ftfy 4.0, is to use NFC normalization unless told to use NFKC normalization (or no normalization at all). The more helpful parts of NFKC are implemented as separate, limited fixes.

There are other interesting things that ftfy can do that aren't part of the :func:`ftfy.fix_text` pipeline, such as:

Encodings ftfy can handle

ftfy can't fix all possible mix-ups. Its goal is to cover the most common encoding mix-ups while keeping false positives to a very low rate.

ftfy can understand text that was decoded as any of these single-byte encodings:

  • Latin-1 (ISO-8859-1)
  • Windows-1252 (cp1252 -- used in Microsoft products)
  • Windows-1251 (cp1251 -- the Russian version of cp1252)
  • Windows-1250 (cp1250 -- the Eastern European version of cp1252)
  • ISO-8859-2 (which is not quite the same as Windows-1250)
  • MacRoman (used on Mac OS 9 and earlier)
  • cp437 (used in MS-DOS and some versions of the Windows command prompt)

when it was actually intended to be decoded as one of these variable-length encodings:

  • UTF-8
  • CESU-8 (what some people think is UTF-8)

It can also understand text that was intended as Windows-1252 but decoded as Latin-1. That's the very common case where things like smart-quotes and bullets turn into single weird control characters.

However, ftfy cannot understand other mixups between single-byte encodings, because it is extremely difficult to detect which mixup in particular is the one that happened.

We also can't handle the legacy encodings used for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, such as shift-jis and gb18030. See issue #34 for why this is so hard.

But remember that the input to ftfy is Unicode, so it handles actual CJK text just fine. It just can't discover that a CJK encoding introduced mojibake into the text.

Using ftfy

The main function, :func:`ftfy.fix_text`, will run text through a sequence of fixes. If the text changed, it will run them through again, so that you can be sure the output ends up in a standard form that will be unchanged by :func:`ftfy.fix_text`.

All the fixes are on by default, but you can pass options to turn them off. Check that the default fixes are appropriate for your use case. For example:

  • You should set fix_entities to False if the output is meant to be interpreted as HTML.
  • You should set fix_character_width to False if you want to preserve the spacing of CJK text.
  • You should set uncurl_quotes to False if you want to preserve quotation marks with nice typography. You could even consider doing quite the opposite of uncurl_quotes, running smartypants on the result to make all the punctuation nice.

If the only fix you need is to detect and repair decoding errors (mojibake), then you should use :func:`ftfy.fix_encoding` directly.

.. versionchanged:: 4.0
   The default normalization was changed from `'NFKC'` to `'NFC'`. The options
   *fix_latin_ligatures* and *fix_character_width* were added to implement some
   of the less lossy parts of NFKC normalization on top of NFC.

.. autofunction:: ftfy.fix_text

.. autofunction:: ftfy.fix_text_segment

.. autofunction:: ftfy.fix_encoding

.. autofunction:: ftfy.fix_file

.. autofunction:: ftfy.explain_unicode

A note on encoding detection

:func:`ftfy.fix_text` expects its input to be a Python 3 str (a Unicode string). If you pass in bytes instead, ftfy will point you to the Python Unicode HOWTO.

Now, you may know that your input is a mess of bytes in an unknown encoding, and you might want a tool that can just statistically analyze those bytes and predict what encoding they're in.

ftfy is not that tool. The :func:`ftfy.guess_bytes` function it contains will do this in very limited cases, but to support more encodings from around the world, something more is needed.

You may have heard of chardet. Chardet is admirable, but it doesn't completely do the job either. Its heuristics are designed for multi-byte encodings, such as UTF-8 and the language-specific encodings used in East Asian languages. It works badly on single-byte encodings, to the point where it will output wrong answers with high confidence.

:func:`ftfy.guess_bytes` doesn't even try the East Asian encodings, so the ideal thing would combine the simple heuristic of :func:`ftfy.guess_bytes` with the multibyte character set detection of chardet. This ideal thing doesn't exist yet.


Command-line tool

ftfy can be used from the command line. By default, it takes UTF-8 input and writes it to UTF-8 output, fixing problems in its Unicode as it goes.

Here's the usage documentation for the ftfy command:

usage: ftfy [-h] [-o OUTPUT] [-g] [-e ENCODING] [-n NORMALIZATION]

ftfy (fixes text for you), version 5.0

positional arguments:
  filename              The file whose Unicode is to be fixed. Defaults to -,
                        meaning standard input.

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -o OUTPUT, --output OUTPUT
                        The file to output to. Defaults to -, meaning standard
  -g, --guess           Ask ftfy to guess the encoding of your input. This is
                        risky. Overrides -e.
  -e ENCODING, --encoding ENCODING
                        The encoding of the input. Defaults to UTF-8.
                        The normalization of Unicode to apply. Defaults to
                        NFC. Can be "none".
  --preserve-entities   Leave HTML entities as they are. The default is to
                        decode them, as long as no HTML tags have appeared in
                        the file.

Module documentation

ftfy.fixes: how individual fixes are implemented

.. automodule:: ftfy.fixes
   :members: unescape_html, remove_terminal_escapes, uncurl_quotes,
    fix_latin_ligatures, fix_character_width, fix_line_breaks,
    fix_surrogates, remove_control_chars, remove_bom, decode_escapes,
    fix_one_step_and_explain, apply_plan, restore_byte_a0,
    replace_lossy_sequences, fix_partial_utf8_punct_in_1252

ftfy.badness: measures the "badness" of text

.. automodule:: ftfy.badness

ftfy.bad_codecs: support some encodings Python doesn't like

.. automodule:: ftfy.bad_codecs

"Sloppy" encodings

.. automodule:: ftfy.bad_codecs.sloppy

Variants of UTF-8

.. automodule:: ftfy.bad_codecs.utf8_variants

ftfy.formatting: justify Unicode text in a monospaced terminal

.. automodule:: ftfy.formatting

ftfy.chardata and ftfy.build_data: trivia about characters

These files load information about the character properties in Unicode 11.0. Yes, even if your version of Python doesn't support Unicode 11.0. This ensures that ftfy's behavior is consistent across versions.

.. automodule:: ftfy.chardata

.. autofunction:: ftfy.build_data.make_char_data_file