Unicode in Mac Emacs and Text Edit, Year 2005

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

2005-04-30 I use a Mac. I use unicode. I use emacs. However, Unicode support is not perfect. It seems nothing beats Apple TextEdit on OS X as far as robustness of Unicode goes.

emacs screenshot emacs screenshot emacs screenshot emacs screenshot
From left to right: TextEdit, TextWrangler, Carbon Emacs v22, emacs v21 on X11.

Of course, with variable tweaking and diddling, i'm sure one can get all chars to show with all editors. Here's the text file: unicode.txt See how your editor does!

As for me, the problem with TextEdit is that it's too simple. Although i use it occasionally. The problem with TextWrangler is that i'm a emacs user. Today i try it as a TextEdit replacement for the occasional use. The problem with carbon emacs is that i can't get it to show some Unicode i use. I'd prefer carbon emacs than X11 emacs because i can drag file to icon to open, and esc w and ctl-y works as copy and paste. The GUI is drawn better (For example, sans a useless X11 bar at top). But all things considered, I'm most happy with X11 emacs i've setup. The one problem is that i can't paste Unicode text from another app thru the stupid X11; it shows up gibberish.

Actually, i'd prefer pure text terminal emacs than GUI ones such as Carbon or X11. (I don't and don't need to use the mouse when in emacs) The problem with running emacs in Terminal is that the command a^\214\230 key cannot function as meta key. Perhaps it's time to try another terminal app that supports a^\214\230 as meta, but then it's another whole matter of uncertainty of how the app supports unicode.

As of today, i have 4 emacs on my mac. A version that came with OS X. A Carbon emacs. A emacs running inside X11, and a Xemacs running inside X11. And by the way, i'm a beta tester for BBEdit from ~1996 to ~2000, so i know TextWragler quite well.

Addendum: See this link for reason why Carbon emacs has problems with unicode:

unicode Mac emacs 2005-03-26 yamamoto mitsuharu RbqKr

Addendum 2005-11: This Unicode problem is solved in Mac OS X 10.4 with Cardon Emacs 22. Out of the box, all Unicode characters display fine.