The character set support in PostgreSQL allows you to store text in a variety of character sets, including single-byte character sets such as the ISO 8859 series and multiple-byte character sets such as EUC (Extended Unix Code), UTF-8, and Mule internal code. All supported character sets can be used transparently by clients, but a few are not supported for use within the server (that is, as a server-side encoding). The default character set is selected while initializing your PostgreSQL database cluster using initdb. It can be overridden when you create a database, so you can have multiple databases each with a different character set.
Table 21-1 shows the character sets available for use in PostgreSQL.
Table 21-1. PostgreSQL Character Sets
|BIG5||Big Five||Traditional Chinese||No||1-2||WIN950, Windows950|
|EUC_CN||Extended UNIX Code-CN||Simplified Chinese||Yes||1-3|
|EUC_JP||Extended UNIX Code-JP||Japanese||Yes||1-3|
|EUC_KR||Extended UNIX Code-KR||Korean||Yes||1-3|
|EUC_TW||Extended UNIX Code-TW||Traditional Chinese, Taiwanese||Yes||1-3|
|GBK||Extended National Standard||Simplified Chinese||No||1-2||WIN936, Windows936|
|ISO_8859_5||ISO 8859-5, ECMA 113||Latin/Cyrillic||Yes||1|
|ISO_8859_6||ISO 8859-6, ECMA 114||Latin/Arabic||Yes||1|
|ISO_8859_7||ISO 8859-7, ECMA 118||Latin/Greek||Yes||1|
|ISO_8859_8||ISO 8859-8, ECMA 121||Latin/Hebrew||Yes||1|
|LATIN1||ISO 8859-1, ECMA 94||Western European||Yes||1||ISO88591|
|LATIN2||ISO 8859-2, ECMA 94||Central European||Yes||1||ISO88592|
|LATIN3||ISO 8859-3, ECMA 94||South European||Yes||1||ISO88593|
|LATIN4||ISO 8859-4, ECMA 94||North European||Yes||1||ISO88594|
|LATIN5||ISO 8859-9, ECMA 128||Turkish||Yes||1||ISO88599|
|LATIN6||ISO 8859-10, ECMA 144||Nordic||Yes||1||ISO885910|
|LATIN9||ISO 8859-15||LATIN1 with Euro and accents||Yes||1||ISO885915|
|LATIN10||ISO 8859-16, ASRO SR 14111||Romanian||Yes||1||ISO885916|
|MULE_INTERNAL||Mule internal code||Multilingual Emacs||Yes||1-4|
|SJIS||Shift JIS||Japanese||No||1-2||Mskanji, ShiftJIS, WIN932, Windows932|
|SQL_ASCII||unspecified (see text)||any||Yes||1|
|UHC||Unified Hangul Code||Korean||No||1-2||WIN949, Windows949|
|WIN1250||Windows CP1250||Central European||Yes||1|
|WIN1252||Windows CP1252||Western European||Yes||1|
|WIN1258||Windows CP1258||Vietnamese||Yes||1||ABC, TCVN, TCVN5712, VSCII|
Not all APIs support all the listed character sets. For example, the PostgreSQL JDBC driver does not support MULE_INTERNAL, LATIN6, LATIN8, and LATIN10.
The SQL_ASCII setting behaves considerably differently from the other settings. When the server character set is SQL_ASCII, the server interprets byte values 0-127 according to the ASCII standard, while byte values 128-255 are taken as uninterpreted characters. No encoding conversion will be done when the setting is SQL_ASCII. Thus, this setting is not so much a declaration that a specific encoding is in use, as a declaration of ignorance about the encoding. In most cases, if you are working with any non-ASCII data, it is unwise to use the SQL_ASCII setting, because PostgreSQL will be unable to help you by converting or validating non-ASCII characters.
initdb defines the default character set for a PostgreSQL cluster. For example,
initdb -E EUC_JP
sets the default character set (encoding) to EUC_JP (Extended Unix Code for Japanese). You can use --encoding instead of -E if you prefer to type longer option strings. If no -E or --encoding option is given, initdb attempts to determine the appropriate encoding to use based on the specified or default locale.
You can create a database with a different character set:
createdb -E EUC_KR korean
This will create a database named korean that uses the character set EUC_KR. Another way to accomplish this is to use this SQL command:
CREATE DATABASE korean WITH ENCODING 'EUC_KR';
The encoding for a database is stored in the system catalog pg_database. You can see that by using the -l option or the \l command of psql.
$ psql -l List of databases Database | Owner | Encoding ---------------+---------+--------------- euc_cn | t-ishii | EUC_CN euc_jp | t-ishii | EUC_JP euc_kr | t-ishii | EUC_KR euc_tw | t-ishii | EUC_TW mule_internal | t-ishii | MULE_INTERNAL postgres | t-ishii | EUC_JP regression | t-ishii | SQL_ASCII template1 | t-ishii | EUC_JP test | t-ishii | EUC_JP utf8 | t-ishii | UTF8 (9 rows)
Important: Although you can specify any encoding you want for a database, it is unwise to choose an encoding that is not what is expected by the locale you have selected. The LC_COLLATE and LC_CTYPE settings imply a particular encoding, and locale-dependent operations (such as sorting) are likely to misinterpret data that is in an incompatible encoding.
Since these locale settings are frozen by initdb, the apparent flexibility to use different encodings in different databases of a cluster is more theoretical than real. It is likely that these mechanisms will be revisited in future versions of PostgreSQL.
One way to use multiple encodings safely is to set the locale to C or POSIX during initdb, thus disabling any real locale awareness.
PostgreSQL supports automatic character set conversion between server and client for certain character set combinations. The conversion information is stored in the pg_conversion system catalog. PostgreSQL comes with some predefined conversions, as shown in Table 21-2. You can create a new conversion using the SQL command CREATE CONVERSION.
Table 21-2. Client/Server Character Set Conversions
|Server Character Set||Available Client Character Sets|
|BIG5||not supported as a server encoding|
|EUC_CN||EUC_CN, MULE_INTERNAL, UTF8|
|EUC_JP||EUC_JP, MULE_INTERNAL, SJIS, UTF8|
|EUC_KR||EUC_KR, MULE_INTERNAL, UTF8|
|EUC_TW||EUC_TW, BIG5, MULE_INTERNAL, UTF8|
|GB18030||not supported as a server encoding|
|GBK||not supported as a server encoding|
|ISO_8859_5||ISO_8859_5, KOI8, MULE_INTERNAL, UTF8, WIN866, WIN1251|
|KOI8||KOI8, ISO_8859_5, MULE_INTERNAL, UTF8, WIN866, WIN1251|
|LATIN1||LATIN1, MULE_INTERNAL, UTF8|
|LATIN2||LATIN2, MULE_INTERNAL, UTF8, WIN1250|
|LATIN3||LATIN3, MULE_INTERNAL, UTF8|
|LATIN4||LATIN4, MULE_INTERNAL, UTF8|
|MULE_INTERNAL||MULE_INTERNAL, BIG5, EUC_CN, EUC_JP, EUC_KR, EUC_TW, ISO_8859_5, KOI8, LATIN1 to LATIN4, SJIS, WIN866, WIN1250, WIN1251|
|SJIS||not supported as a server encoding|
|SQL_ASCII||any (no conversion will be performed)|
|UHC||not supported as a server encoding|
|UTF8||all supported encodings|
|WIN866||WIN866, ISO_8859_5, KOI8, MULE_INTERNAL, UTF8, WIN1251|
|WIN1250||WIN1250, LATIN2, MULE_INTERNAL, UTF8|
|WIN1251||WIN1251, ISO_8859_5, KOI8, MULE_INTERNAL, UTF8, WIN866|
To enable automatic character set conversion, you have to tell PostgreSQL the character set (encoding) you would like to use in the client. There are several ways to accomplish this:
Using the \encoding command in psql. \encoding allows you to change client encoding on the fly. For example, to change the encoding to SJIS, type:
Using libpq functions.
\encoding actually calls
PQsetClientEncoding() for its
int PQsetClientEncoding(PGconn *conn, const char *encoding);
where conn is a connection to the server, and encoding is the encoding you want to use. If the function successfully sets the encoding, it returns 0, otherwise -1. The current encoding for this connection can be determined by using:
int PQclientEncoding(const PGconn *conn);
Note that it returns the encoding ID, not a symbolic string such as EUC_JP. To convert an encoding ID to an encoding name, you can use:
char *pg_encoding_to_char(int encoding_id);
Using SET client_encoding TO. Setting the client encoding can be done with this SQL command:
SET CLIENT_ENCODING TO 'value';
Also you can use the standard SQL syntax SET NAMES for this purpose:
SET NAMES 'value';
To query the current client encoding:
To return to the default encoding:
Using PGCLIENTENCODING. If the environment variable PGCLIENTENCODING is defined in the client's environment, that client encoding is automatically selected when a connection to the server is made. (This can subsequently be overridden using any of the other methods mentioned above.)
Using the configuration variable client_encoding. If the client_encoding variable is set, that client encoding is automatically selected when a connection to the server is made. (This can subsequently be overridden using any of the other methods mentioned above.)
If the conversion of a particular character is not possible — suppose you chose EUC_JP for the server and LATIN1 for the client, then some Japanese characters do not have a representation in LATIN1 — then an error is reported.
If the client character set is defined as SQL_ASCII, encoding conversion is disabled, regardless of the server's character set. Just as for the server, use of SQL_ASCII is unwise unless you are working with all-ASCII data.
These are good sources to start learning about various kinds of encoding systems.
An extensive collection of documents about character sets, encodings, and code pages.
Detailed explanations of EUC_JP, EUC_CN, EUC_KR, EUC_TW appear in section 3.2.
The web site of the Unicode Consortium
UTF-8 is defined here.
If you see anything in the documentation that is not correct, does not match your experience with the particular feature or requires further clarification, please use this form to report a documentation issue.