Fri 04 May 2007

We’ve recently had a problem where we wanted to produce a website in multiple languages including Russian, Czech, Romanian, and other eastern European languages. No problems, we thought, we can just use Java properties files and the fmt:message JSTL tags.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple because properties files cannot be UTF-8, so getting the source languages into properties files proved to be nigh on impossible. There is a program native2ascii provided in the Java JDK, but this only copes with files in the current native locale, it can’t cope with UTF-8 files either.

So, in the end we wrote a little utility to do it for us. It’s actually very straight forward, just a single function does the trick:

String encodedString(String line) {
    StringBuffer out = new StringBuffer();
    line = toUTF8(line);
    char[] chars = line.toCharArray();
    for (int i = 0; i < chars.length; i++) {
        char aChar = chars[i];
        if (aChar > 127) {
            out.append(String.format("\u%04x", new Object[]{new Long((long) aChar)}));
        } else {
    return out.toString();

All we have to do is go through each character and if it is larger than 127, then we just write it out in the u<em>xxx</em> format.

You can take this code and call it from a loop that reads in a text file and then outputs it again (though you might have to tell Java what the encoding of the file is).

We decided to put it in a web page. Here we found another wrinkle, the string that you get when you call request.getParameter(...) is encoded as ISO-8859-1. So you have to take the request parameter and convert it to UTF-8 as follows:

String source = new String(request.getParameter("source").getBytes("ISO-8859-1"), "UTF-8");

However, to save you the hassle, we’ve decided to put our web-based converter up on our website as a free service. So if you need to convert some strings, go to our converter!.