Encoding::FixLatin - takes mixed encoding input and produces UTF-8 output


    use Encoding::FixLatin qw(fix_latin);

    my $utf8_string = fix_latin($mixed_encoding_string);


Most encoding conversion tools take input in one encoding and produce output in another encoding. This module takes input which may contain characters in more than one encoding and makes a best effort to convert them all to UTF-8 output.


Nothing is exported by default. The only public function is fix_latin which will be exported on request (as per SYNOPSIS).


fix_latin( string, options ... )

Decodes the supplied 'string' and returns a UTF-8 version of the string. The following rules are used:

  • ASCII characters (single bytes in the range 0x00 - 0x7F) are passed through unchanged.

  • Well-formed UTF-8 multi-byte characters are also passed through unchanged.

  • Bytes in the range 0xA0 - 0xFF are assumed to be Latin-1 characters (ISO8859-1 encoded) and are converted to UTF-8.

  • Bytes in the range 0x80 - 0x9F are assumed to be Win-Latin-1 characters (CP1252 encoded) and are converted to UTF-8.

The achilles heel of these rules is that it's possible for certain combinations of two consecutive Latin-1 characters to be misinterpreted as a single UTF-8 character - ie: there is some risk of data corruption.

See the 'LIMITATIONS' section below to quantify this risk for the type of data you're working with.

The fix_latin function accepts options as name => value pairs. The following options are recognised:

bytes_only => 1/0

The value returned by fix_latin is normally a Perl character string and will have the utf8 flag set if it contains non-ASCII characters. If you set the bytes_only option to a true value, the returned string will be a binary string of UTF-8 bytes. The utf8 flag will not be set. This is useful if you're going to immediately use the string in an IO operation and wish to avoid the overhead of converting to and from Perl's internal representation.


This module is perfectly safe when handling data containing only ASCII and UTF-8 characters. Introducing ISO8859-1 or CP1252 characters does add a risk of data corruption (ie: some characters in the input being converted to incorrect characters in the output). To quantify the risk it is necessary to understand it's cause. First, let's break the input bytes into two categories.

  • ASCII bytes fall into the range 0x00-0x7F - the most significant bit is always set to zero. I'll use the symbol 'a' to represent these bytes.

  • Non-ASCII bytes fall into the range 0x80-0xFF - the most significant bit is always set to one. I'll use the symbol 'B' to represent these bytes.

A sequence of ASCII bytes ('aaa') is always unambiguous and will not be misinterpreted.

Lone non-ASCII bytes within sequences of ASCII bytes ('aaBaBa') are also unambiguous and will not be misinterpreted.

The potential for error occurs with two (or more) consecutive non-ASCII bytes. For example the sequence 'BB' might be intended to represent two characters in one of the legacy encodings or a single character in UTF-8. Because this module gives precedence to the UTF-8 characters it is possible that a random pair of legacy characters may be misinterpreted as a single UTF-8 character.

The risk is reduced by the fact that not all pairs of non-ASCII bytes form valid UTF-8 sequences. Every non-ASCII UTF-8 character is made up of two or more 'B' bytes and no 'a' bytes. For a two-byte character, the first byte must be in the range 0xC0-0xDF and the second must be in the range 0x80-0xBF.

Any pair of 'BB' bytes that do not fall into the required ranges are unambiguous and will not be misinterpreted.

Pairs of 'BB' bytes that are actually individual Latin-1 characters but happen to fall into the required ranges to be misinterpreted as a UTF-8 character are rather unlikely to appear in normal text. If you look those ranges up on a Latin-1 code chart you'll see that the first character would need to be an uppercase accented letter and the second would need to be a non-printable control character or a special punctuation symbol.

One way to summarise the role of this module is that it guarantees to produce UTF-8 output, possibly at the cost of introducing the odd 'typo'.


Please report any bugs to bug-encoding-fixlatin at, or through the web interface at I will be notified, and then you'll automatically be notified of progress on your bug as I make changes.


You can also look for information at:


Grant McLean, <grantm at>


Copyright 2009 Grant McLean

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself.