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Believe it or not, There is no such thing as Plain Text!
All files in a modern Operating Sytems (Windows, Linux, or MacOSX) are
saved with an encoding scheme! They are encoded (a table mapping of what
each byte means) in such way so that other programs can read it back
and understand how to get information out. It happens that US/ASCII
encoding is earliest and widely used that people think it's just "Plain
Tex". But even ASCII is an encoding! It uses 7 bits in mapping all US
characters in saving the bytes into file. Obviously you are free to use
any kind of encoding (mapping) scheme to save any files, but if you want
other programs to read it back easily, then sticking to some standard
ones would help a lot. Without an agreed upon encoding, programs will
not able to read files and be any useful!
The most useful and practical file encoding today is "UTF-8" because it support Unicode, and it's widely used in internet.
I discovered something odd when using Eclipse and Notepadd++. In
Ecilpse, if we set default encoding with UTF-8, it would use normal
UTF-8 without the Byte Order Mark (BOM). But in Notepad++, it appears to
support UTF-8 wihtout BOM, but it won't recoginze it when first open.
You can check this by going Menu > Encoding and see which one is
selected. Notepad++ seems to only recognize UTF-8 wihtout BOM with ones
it converted by it's own conversion utility. Perhaps it's a bug in
So what is BOM? The byte order mark is
useless for UTF-8. They only used for UTF-16 so they know which byte
order is first. But UTF-8 will allow you to save these BOM for
conversion purpose... they are ineffective in encoding the doc itself.
So a "normal" UTF-8, it won't have BOM, but Windows would like to use
them anyway. The Windows NOTEPAD would automatically save BOM in UTF-8!
So be-aware when viewing UTF-8 without BOM encoding files in Notepad++, as it can be deceiving at first glance.
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