Double-byte characters

A double-byte character set (DBCS) is a character encoding in which either all characters (including control characters) are encoded in two bytes, or merely every graphic character not representable by an accompanying single-byte character set (SBCS) is encoded in two bytes… A DBCS supports national languages that contain a large number of unique characters or symbols (the maximum number of characters that can be represented with one byte is 256 characters, while two bytes can represent up to 65,536 characters). Examples of such languages include Japanese and Chinese.”

Double byte characters and variable width encoding are a requirement if you’re planning on making your OSS truly international. For example, if you are unable to allow Asian characters to be incorporated into your OSS suite, then you will find it very difficult to penetrate some of the fastest expanding markets in the world.

One support option is to pre-define many different languages and allow the implementers to choose the preferred language during installation. A closely related alternative is for the implementers to customise the solution and modify boilerplate (ie allowing field names on the screen to be changed).

A second support option is to allow the customer’s administrators to change the boilerplate to whatever text they prefer for each field. This can be a helpful solution for customers even if the baseline boilerplate is in English and the customer wants English fields showing in GUIs as it allows the customer to make tweaks to wording that may otherwise be unclear to their operators.

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