[R-SIG-Mac] Reading in a table originally with ISO-latin1 encoding (in Linux)

Seppo Nyrkkö seppo.nyrkko at helsinki.fi
Wed May 16 17:39:10 CEST 2007

Dear mac & R users,

Returning to this issue, I and Antti found out this certain problem 
with R.app and Scandinavian characters was triggered by the Mac OS X's 
system-wide language locale set to "C" (POSIX) in the OS X installation 

(details follow)

On June 22, 2006 at 19:43, Antti Arppe wrote:

  Dear colleagues,
> With the help of a colleague of mine here in Helsinki (Seppo Nyrkkö) 
> who looked at the innards of the R source code for Mac it turned out 
> that this was in the end indeed an issue concerning the Mac locale and 
> its settings and not R.
> Though we had tried this earlier by changing the LANG variable to 
> 'fi_FI', we hadn't looked hard enough in the available encodings (with 
> locale -a) to select the exactly correct value, being:
> LANG=fi_FI.IS08859-1; export LANG;
> With this configuration R was able to happily read in my original 
> table with the Scandinavian characters in the header, without no fuss.
> Thanks for your advice, and wishing all a good Midsummer,
>         -Antti Arppe

At the startup, R checks whether it is running in an international 
character set locale or not. The locale information is inherited from 
the parent process, i.e. the os x window server, which reads locale 
settings from the system-wide settings. This information describes 
which characters are printable, and which should be displayed as 
substituted characters during the whole R session. The POSIX C locale 
allows only displaying 7-bit ASCII characters, and disables any 
printing of the scandinavian characters (ä,ö,å) in R.app.

First step of recovery is to change the system from the C locale to an 
international locale which allows utf-8 character sequences (can be 
done through System Preferences). This enables proper output of unicode 
characters in the R.app terminal.

Then, to read and write files in the latin-1 (iso-8859-1) character set 
(note that the system does utf-8 by default now), one should change the 
default encoding for file operations by commanding
at the command prompt. It is also possible to add this setting in the 
startup file ".Rprofile" in the project startup directory.

Changing the locale in the command-line shell session (either by hand 
or in the shell profile script) might not be the best solution here, 
since other locale-aware OS X applications, launched from the window 
manager, would remain in the C locale.

with best regards,

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