LCL Unicode Support/fr

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Le support avec Lazarus de la norme Unicode nécessite un développement approfondi, principalement en regard de la plate-forme Windows. Voici quelque information de base pour ceux qui voudraient développer plus loin le support de la norme Unicode sous Lazarus. Svp corriger, prolonger et mettre à jour cette page .

Cela aidera si vous avez déjà entendu parler de la norme Unicode et si vous aviez peut-être une certaine expérience avec les WideStrings sous Delphi. L'utilisation précédente de scripts latins non-(occidentaux) et leurs jeux de caractères variés aidera aussi.

Note: On discute toujours des détails d'implémentation, et le contenu de ce document peut changer.

Directives d'implémentation


L'esprit de Lazarus est : "Écrire une fois, compiler partout ." Ceci signifie que , idéalement , une application avec la norme unicode autorisée should have only one Unicode supporting source code version, without any conditional defines in respect to various target platforms.

The "interface" part of the LCL should support Unicode for the target platforms which support it themselves, concealing at the same time all peculiarities from the application programmer.

What concerns Lazarus, the internal string communication at the boundaries "Application code <--> LCL", as well as "LCL <--> Widgetsets" is based on the classical (byte oriented) strings. Logically, their contents should be encoded according to the UTF-8.

Migration à l'Unicode

Most existing Lazarus use Ansi encodings, because that´s the default for Gtk1 and win32 interfaces today. This will change in the future and all widgetsets will support UTF-8, so all applications that pass strings directly to the interface (be written on code or on the object inspector) will need to be converted to utf-8.

When people develop software for non-fully working widgetsets like Gtk 2, Qt, WinCE (and futurely Win32U), they use the IDE compiled for more stable widgetsets, like Gtk and win32. To avoid inconsistencies (like passing iso characters for a utf-8 widgetset), it´s necessary to use an IDE working on the same encoding as the target widgetset. This means that we will need stable UTF-8 IDE before completing the migration to Unicode.

Currently we have various groups of widgetsets, according to the encoding:

  • Interfaces that use ANSI encoding: win32 and gtk (1) interfaces.
  • Interfaces that use UTF-8 encoding: gtk (1), gtk2, qt, fpGUI
  • Interfaces that currently use ANSI encoding, but need migration to UTF-8: win32, wince

Notice that gtk 1 is on both ANSI and UTF-8 groups. That´s becouse the encoding is controled by an enviroment variable on Gtk 1.

As Lazarus is today, existing software will work, if recompiled for win32, wince or gtk interfaces, but will face encoding issues compiling for other widgetset. And new software, using UTF-8 will work when recompiled for any of the widgetsets on the Unicode group.

One very important note is that you must use the IDE compiled for the same group you are targeting. This is because the IDE uses the encoding of the widgetset it was compiled to, and not the one of the target widgetset to write LFM and LRS files.


Now that we have guidelines, it´s time to create a roadmap and put it into practice. For this, the following realistic plan was created. Our plan splits tasks in 2 groups. One for Primary tasks and another for Secondary tasks.

All primary tasks must be fully implemented before we can say Lazarus is Unicode enabled, and as such will be the main attention of our effort.

Secondary tasks are desirable, but won´t be implemented unless someone volunteers for them, or posts a bounty for them.

Primary Tasks

Make Win32 Widgetset support UTF-8

Notes: On this step we will target all 32-bits Windows versions at the same time. All code produced on this effort will be isolated from the current win32 interface by IFDEFs, to avoid introducing bugs on this primary interface. After the transition time, the IFDEFs will be removed and only the Unicode code will remain.

Status: Partially implemented

Update Gtk 2 keyboard functions so they work with UTF-8


Status: Almost complete. Some pre-editing features of the gtk2 are not yet supported in custom controls. I don't know, which language needs them.

Make sure the Lazarus IDE runs correctly with Win32 Unicode widgetset and supports UTF-8


Status: Complete. Except for the character map, which still shows only 255 characters. But all modern OS provide nice unicode character maps anyway.

Make sure the Lazarus IDE runs correctly with Gtk 2 widgetset and supports UTF-8


Status: Complete. There are gtk2 intf bugs, but they have nothing to do with utf-8.

Secondary Tasks

Update Windows CE widgetset so it uses UTF-8

Notes: String conversion routines are concentrated on the winceproc.pp file. Many tests are needed.

Status: Not implemented

Update Gtk 1 keyboard functions so they work with UTF-8


Status: Not implemented

Complete RTL in synedit

Notes: RTL means right to left as used for example by arabic

Status: Not implemented.

Unicode essentials

Unicode standard maps integers from 0 to 10FFFF(h) to characters. Each such mapping is called a code point. In other words, Unicode characters are in principle defined for code points from U+000000 to U+10FFFF (0 to 1 114 111).

There are three schemes for representing Unicode code points as unique byte sequences. These schemes are called Unicode transformation formats: UTF-8, UTF-16 and UTF-32. The conversions between all of them are possible. Here are their basic properties:

                           UTF-8 UTF-16 UTF-32
Smallest code point [hex] 000000 000000 000000
Largest code point  [hex] 10FFFF 10FFFF 10FFFF
Code unit size [bits]          8     16     32
Minimal bytes/character        1      2      4
Maximal bytes/character        4      4      4

UTF-8 has several important and useful properties: It is interpreted as a sequence of bytes, so that the concept of lo- and hi-order byte does not exist. Unicode characters U+0000 to U+007F (ASCII) are encoded simply as bytes 00h to 7Fh (ASCII compatibility). This means that files and strings which contain only 7-bit ASCII characters have the same encoding under both ASCII and UTF-8. All characters >U+007F are encoded as a sequence of several bytes, each of which has the two most significant bits set. No byte sequence of one character is contained within a longer byte sequence of another character. This allows easy search for substrings. The first byte of a multibyte sequence that represents a non-ASCII character is always in the range C0h to FDh and it indicates how many bytes follow for this character. All further bytes in a multibyte sequence are in the range 80h to BFh. This allows easy resynchronization and robustness.

UTF-16 has the following most important properties: It uses a single 16-bit word to encode characters from U+0000 to U+d7ff, and a pair of 16-bit words to encode any of the remaining Unicode characters.

Finally, any Unicode character can be represented as a single 32-bit unit in UTF-32.

For more, see: Unicode FAQ - Basic questions, Unicode FAQ - UTF-8, UTF-16, UTF-32 & BOM, Wikipedia: UTF-8 [1]

Lazarus component library architecture essentials

The LCL consists of two parts:

  1. A target platform independent part, which implements a class hierarchy analogous to Delphi VCL;
  2. "Interfaces" - a part that implements the interface to APIs of each target platform.

The communication between the two parts is done by an abstract class TWidgetset. Each widgetset is implemented by its own class derived from TWidgetset.

The GTK 1 widgetset is the oldest. In this widgetset the string encoding is determined by the LANG environment variable, which is usually a iso The ISO-8859-n group of single byte encodings. Recently (as of Mandriva 2007, for example), many distributions have being shipping Gtk 1 configured for UTF-8. Our Gtk 1 interface lacks proper support for UTF-8 on the keyboard handling routines, so this is a big problem, that increases the need for Lazarus to implement cross-platform Unicode support.

Gtk2 widgetset only works with UTF-8 encoding and supports UTF-8 completely.

The win32 interface is setup with ansi widgets and UTF-8 support is started, but not yet complete and therefore disabled by default. So it is currently not possible to use Unicode with win32.

Qt interface is prepared for UTF-8. Qt itself uses UTF-16 as native encoding, but the lazarus interface for Qt converts from UTF-8 to UTF-16.

Windows CE only support UTF-16 as character encoding, but our interface for it currently converts strings from ISO to UTF-16 before calling the Windows API. This is very easy to fix, as all conversion code is concentrated on a few routines on the winceproc.pp file.

For more, see: Internals of the LCL

Unicode-enabling the win32 interface

Compiling LCL-Win32 with Unicode

To enable unicode on LCL for Windows go to the menu "Tools" --> "Configure Build Lazarus"

Put -dWindowsUnicodeSupport on the "Options" field. Select all targets to NONE, and only LCL to Clean+Build. Select win32 as target widgetset. Click on "Build".

Now you can recompile your existing applications and they will have Unicode mode enabled. Note that at the moment only a few parts of the software will be really unicode enabled and you may find bugs on those parts.


First, and most importantly, all Unicode patches for the Win32 interface must be enclosed by IFDEF WindowsUnicodeSupport, to avoid breaking the existing ANSI interface. After this stabilizes, all ifdefs will be removed and only the Unicode part will remain. At this moment all existing programs that use ANSI characters will need migration to Unicode.

Windows platforms <=Win9x are based on ISO code page standards and only partially support Unicode. Windows platforms starting with WinNT and Windows CE fully support Unicode. Win 9x and NT offer two parallel sets of API functions: the old ANSI enabled *A and the new, Unicode enabled *W. *W functions accept wide strings, i.e. UTF-16 encoded strings, as parameters. Windows CE only uses Wide API functions.

Wide functions present on Windows 9x

Some Wide API functions are present on Windows 9x. Here is a list of such functions:

Conversion example:

  GetTextExtentPoint32(hdcNewBitmap, LPSTR(ButtonCaption),
Length(ButtonCaption), TextSize);


  {$ifdef WindowsUnicodeSupport}
    GetTextExtentPoint32W(hdcNewBitmap, PWideChar(Utf8Decode(ButtonCaption)), Length(WideCaption), TextSize);
    GetTextExtentPoint32(hdcNewBitmap, LPSTR(ButtonCaption), Length(ButtonCaption), TextSize);

Functions that need Ansi and Wide versions

First Conversion example:

function TGDIWindow.GetTitle: String;
 l: Integer;
   l := Windows.GetWindowTextLength(Handle);
   SetLength(Result, l);
   Windows.GetWindowText(Handle, @Result[1], l);


function TGDIWindow.GetTitle: String;
 l: Integer;
 AnsiBuffer: string;
 WideBuffer: WideString;

{$ifdef WindowsUnicodeSupport}

 if UnicodeEnabledOS then
   l := Windows.GetWindowTextLengthW(Handle);
   SetLength(WideBuffer, l);
   l := Windows.GetWindowTextW(Handle, @WideBuffer[1], l);
   SetLength(WideBuffer, l);
   Result := Utf8Encode(WideBuffer);
   l := Windows.GetWindowTextLength(Handle);
   SetLength(AnsiBuffer, l);
   l := Windows.GetWindowText(Handle, @AnsiBuffer[1], l);
   SetLength(AnsiBuffer, l);
   Result := AnsiToUtf8(AnsiBuffer);


   l := Windows.GetWindowTextLength(Handle);
   SetLength(Result, l);
   Windows.GetWindowText(Handle, @Result[1], l);




What should already be working with Unicode:

  • TForm, TButton, TLabel
  • Most controls
  • Menus
  • LCLIntf.ExtTextOut and most other text related winapis
  • TStrings based controls. Examples: TComboBox, TListBox, etc

Known problems with Unicode support:

  • SynEdit does not support RTL (right to left)
  • MessageBox doesn't seam to be working with unicode

List of units to be checked:

  • ""
  • "win32def.pp"
  • "win32int.pp"
  • ""
  • ""
  • ""
  • ""
  • ""
  • ""
  • "win32proc.pp"
  • ""
  • ""
  • "win32wsactnlist.pp"
  • "win32wsarrow.pp"
  • "win32wsbuttons.pp"
  • "win32wscalendar.pp"
  • "win32wschecklst.pp"
  • "win32wsclistbox.pp"
  • "win32wscomctrls.pp"
  • "win32wscontrols.pp"
  • ""
  • "win32wsdbctrls.pp"
  • "win32wsdbgrids.pp"
  • "win32wsdialogs.pp"
  • "win32wsdirsel.pp" - Felipe
  • "win32wseditbtn.pp" - Felipe
  • "win32wsextctrls.pp" - Felipe
  • "win32wsextdlgs.pp" - Felipe
  • "win32wsfilectrl.pp" - Felipe
  • "win32wsforms.pp" - Felipe
  • "win32wsgrids.pp" - Felipe
  • "win32wsimglist.pp" - Felipe
  • "win32wsmaskedit.pp" - Felipe
  • "win32wsmenus.pp" - Felipe
  • "win32wspairsplitter.pp" - Felipe
  • "win32wsspin.pp" - Felipe
  • "win32wsstdctrls.pp" - Felipe
  • "win32wstoolwin.pp" - Felipe
  • "winext.pas" - Felipe


Lazarus Unicode Test.png

See Also

  • UTF-8 - Description of UTF-8 strings