Unicode is the term used for extended character sets which allows displaying text in many languages (including those with a lot of different characters like Japanese, Korean etc.). It solves the ASCII problem of having a lot of table dedicated for each language by having a unified table where each character has its own place.

To simplify, unicode can be seen as a big ascii table, which doesn't have 256 characters but up to 65536. Thus, each character in unicode will need 2 bytes in memory (this is important when dealing with pointers for example).

Here are some links to have a better understanding about unicode (must have reading):

General unicode information
Unicode and BOM

Unicode and Windows

PureBasic internally uses the UCS2 encoding which is also the format used by the Windows unicode API, so no conversions are needed at runtime when calling an OS function. When dealing with an API function, PureBasic will automatically use the unicode one if available (for example MessageBox_() will map to MessageBoxW()). All the API structures and constants supported by PureBasic are using unicode version.


UTF-8 is another unicode encoding, which is byte based. Unlike UCS2 which always takes 2 bytes per characters, UTF-8 uses a variable length encoding for each character (up to 4 bytes can represent one character). The biggest advantage of UTF-8 is the fact it doesn't includes null characters in its coding, so it can be edited like a regular text file. Also the ASCII characters from 1 to 127 are always preserved, so the text is kind of readable as only special characters will be encoded. One drawback is its variable length, so it all string operations will be slower due to needed pre-processing to locate a character is in the text.

PureBasic uses UTF-8 by default when writing string to files (File and Preference libraries), so all texts are fully cross-platform.

The PureBasic compiler also handles both Ascii and UTF-8 files (the UTF-8 files need to have the correct BOM header to be handled correctly). Both can be mixed in a single program without problem: an ascii file can include an UTF-8 file and vice-versa, as long as all string-literals (i.e. "x") and character-literals (i.e. 'x') in the ASCII files contain only characters with a code <= 127.. When developing, it's recommended to set the IDE in UTF-8 mode, so all the source files will be unicode ready.