nickawatts edited this page Oct 19, 2012 · 11 revisions

This repository houses a set of tools for re-encoding text files in a new character encoding. The tools include a Java API and an Apache Ant task. The project exists to fill in a gap in tools for converting the encoding of multiple files in a batch format.

The Java API

The Java API is simple, it is a single method in a single class. If you wish to use the Java API directly, simply call the reencodeFile method of the class org.reencode.CharacterEncodingConversion. This method re-encodes a single file at a time. See the Java docs for this class for further details on usage.

The Ant Task

Re-encoding of files can be performed with an Ant task, which is included in the source code. The Ant task allows you to convert one or more files using a fileset. You simply specify the original encoding of the files, the encoding you want to convert to and the output directory. The encoding of the original files will be converted and then placed in the output directory, using the same file names as the originals.


First you need to obtain the Jar file with the Ant task from target folder in the repository. Then install the Jar in a place where Ant will be able to find it. See the Ant docs on optional tasks for details.

In your Ant script you will have to define a task using a taskdef tag. After defining this task, which you can name whatever you wish, you can use it in your Ant script just like any other task. See the sample script below for an example.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<project name="sample" default="default">
    <taskdef name="ReEncode" 
    <target name="default">
        <ReEncode inputEncoding="US-ASCII" outputEncoding="ISO-8859-1" todir="out">
          <fileset dir="samples" includes=".txt"/>

In the Ant script above, the task was defined and given the name ReEncode. The ReEncode task was then used to re-encode all of the *.txt files in the samples directory. After running this script the re-encoded files will reside in the out directory.

Sample Ant Script

There is a sample Ant script in the path src/test/scripts that defines the task and does a few sample conversions. You can use this as a reference when learning how to use this task. The files that are converted are in src/test/resources/samples.

The Gradle Task

The Gradle task is not available in version 0.1, but the plan is to create one for version 0.2.

What About Automatic Detection of the Input Encoding?

The tools that this project provides require that you know the encoding of the original files up front. So, the short answer to why is that automatic detection is a non-trivial problem. There are many fuzzy situations (i.e. a file containing some characters within a single file encoded as UTF-8 and others as CP1252) and costs associated with the process (i.e. do you want to process the entire file, or just a few bytes to make the decision?). There are some tools that can help you do this, like the file command described below in the section 'Other Tools for Encoding'. It is assumed by this project that you know what encoding your input files are in and what you want to convert to.

Other Tools for Encoding

There are solid tools already in existence for doing this sort of work, especially in Unix/Linux. In particular, the file command supplies the character encoding for a file in the following way:

$ file -i sample.txt
sample.txt: text/plain; charset=us-ascii

For conversion, the iconv, is the tool of choice. It can be used like so to convert a file from CP1252 encoding to UTF-8:

$ iconv -f CP1252 -t UTF-8 < sample.txt > sample.txt.out

For a discussion on character encoding in general and a more complete list of tools, see the Wikipedia page on Character Encoding. For an awesome discussion on how to do character encoding in Ruby and how to use iconv, see the fantastic blog post by James Gray on the topic.

There is also an auto-detection library called "Guess Encoding", written by Guillame LaForge that is now incorporated into Intellij IDEA. The downside of Guess Encoding is that it only looks at a user-defined chunk of the file rather than a full analysis of the file.

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