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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. Mail.app 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 Mail.app 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 com.apple.mail.plist 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:
http://developer.apple.com/tools/

On the command line in Terminal, type:

defaults write com.apple.mail NSPreferredMailCharset "UTF-8"

Make a back up copy of com.apple.mail.plist first. I found mine at:
/Users/your_user_name/Library/Preferences/com.apple.mail.plist

Now when you send a message with "good • day", the message will be in UTF-8. However, if you type "good day", Mail.app will use US-ASCII. Mail.app 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 Mail.app 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".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Character_encoding
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utf-8

--Basil Bourque

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