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Add more Text Encoding options to Apple's Mail Internet
Whenever a user enters non-ASCII characters in a new message (accented latin vowels or Japanese letters, for example), Apple's Mail will try, by default, to encode the text in Unicode character encoding. The user still has the chance to overwrite that default behaviour and choose another character encoding for the new outgoing message by selecting another one from the menu (translating from Mail's Spanish localization) Message -> Text_encoding.

It might happen though, that Mail does not offer the specific character encoding the user is looking for. In order for Mail to expand the list of possible character encodings, quit Mail and then go to System Preferences -> International -> Language tab, and then click the Edit... button. In this dialog, check the specific language that the missing character encoding is intended for. Click OK, quit System Preferences, and open Mail again -- the new character encoding options will appear in the drop down list. For example, in order to be able to choose Shift-JIS as a character encoding in Apple's Mail, add Japanese language to the International preference panel.

This hint is not actually mine, but was gently revealed by macosxhints' forum poster "bedouin" in this thread. So thanks bedouin!
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Thank you!
Authored by: ThreeDayMonk on Sep 08, '04 11:42:38AM
I am so grateful for this hint! Many Japanese systems can only read ISO-2022-JP messages. I received a few complaints recently about mojibake'd emails that I'd sent, an effect of Mail using UTF-8 for everything. Now I can fix the problem.

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Add more Text Encoding options to Apple's Mail
Authored by: yosithezet on Sep 08, '04 02:44:47PM

How can you set a specific encoding as the DEFAULT encoding in Mail?

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Add more Text Encoding options to Apple's Mail
Authored by: macgruder on Jul 02, '05 05:48:57AM

open Terminal and type:

[code]defaults write NSPreferredMailCharset "ISO-2022-JP" [/code]

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Oops. Try:
Authored by: macgruder on Jul 02, '05 05:51:31AM
open Terminal and type:
defaults write NSPreferredMailCharset "ISO-2022-JP" 

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Oops. Try:
Authored by: Tommi70 on Jul 10, '05 12:05:15AM

So relieved to hear there's a solution. But please forgive me for being an idiot...
What do I do after I open Terminal? I paste in the command you mentioned, and...
Do I save? Where to and what as? What save options do I choose in the dialogue?

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Oops. Try:
Authored by: legacyb4 on Sep 18, '05 12:53:55PM
Terminal is located in /Applications/Utilities

Apple's reference document #301986

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Oops. Try:
Authored by: chyna4xena on Sep 18, '05 08:31:51PM

After entering (or pasting) that line of text, you just hit return - things you type in the terminal are "commands" that are executed immediately. There will be no confirmation or alert if it worked.

Saving, in the Terminal application, means either saving a session, or a log of a session's activity, neither of which need to be done for the command to have effect.

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applies to the incoming messages, too
Authored by: macciius on Sep 15, '05 09:47:00AM

Thanks a lot for posting the hint! It, of course, applies to the incoming messages, too -- sometimes the sender does not set the encoding properly and incorrectly guesses that it is Western. Use this hint to get more options in the Message -> Text Encoding menu. Also, in case anyone wonders, this hint applies to Tiger Mail just the same.

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Add more Text Encoding options to Apple's Mail
Authored by: basilbourque on Nov 19, '06 11:21:44PM
There is no single default. chooses the simplest encoding that accommodates the text you have typed.

So, if you type "good day", Mail uses US-ASCII. If you type "good • day" (the Option+8 bullet character between the words), then uses "WINDOWS-1252". If you type a Japanese character, you are likely to get a Japanese specific charset.

You *can* override that choice of a fancier charset. For example, I want to use UTF-8 instead of "WINDOWS-1252" or any number of other charsets. I need to add a property to the file. Do this in either of 2 ways, via the command line or using the GUI program "Property List Editor" bundled with the 1 gig download of Apple's Xcode Developer Tools from:

On the command line in Terminal, type:

defaults write NSPreferredMailCharset "UTF-8"

Make a back up copy of first. I found mine at:

Now when you send a message with "good • day", the message will be in UTF-8. However, if you type "good day", will use US-ASCII. is biased towards US-ASCII because that is one of the simplest and most common encodings (Latin-1 and Unicode/UTF-8 are supersets of US-ASCII). Once you add the bullet, Mail needs a fancier encoding, but now it will choose UTF-8 rather than something else.

The info above is based on my own experiments in Version 2.1.1 (752.3) bundled with Mac OS X 10.4.8. I simply sent messages to myself with and without the changed plist. To see the encoding of a message, choose View > Message > Raw Source. Then look for the word "charset".

--Basil Bourque

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