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Unicode and You

In view of the increasingly global nature of our clients’ business, ACS is working hard to ensure that Advantage supports the needs of international commerce. One such need is the incorporation of Unicode.

First, some background.

In the late 80s and early 90s, several big computer companies grew tired of the ad hoc approach that had been the norm when it came to non-Latin character sets. The systems of the time were limited to 128 or 256 characters and the non-Latin characters may have been Russian, Greek, Hebrew or a host of others. This was not easy to deal with across systems or programs and so the companies joined together to create a uniform code, which they called Unicode.

In addition to creating a uniform code that standardized the characters, they also set up an organization to govern subsequent changes and updates to Unicode. Over the years, more and more scripts—or character sets—were added, including ideographic (symbol-based) scripts such as Chinese and Japanese. Currently, about 100 scripts exist in Unicode and development is still being done on the more obscure ones (think: dead languages).

Now for the relevant part. Advantage now handles the part of Unicode called the BMP (Basic Multi-lingual Plane) which covers virtually all character sets currently in use in the world.

What does this mean for you? When you upgrade to Advantage 2012r2 or later, you will be asked if you want to enable Unicode in your database or not. If you say yes, you will be able to enter data using Greek or Korean characters, for example. If you’re very ambitious, you can consider translating the Advantage user interface into another character set.

Terrific! But enhancements often come with a caveat and there are three in this case. First, since Unicode uses two bytes for every character instead of one, it will significantly increase the size of your database. Second, although this advancement allows you to incorporate the character sets needed for such languages as Chinese or Japanese, it does not mean that the software has necessarily been “internationalized” for the postal or taxation requirements of those countries. And third, it does not yet support right-to-left languages such as Arabic or Hebrew. All in good time.

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