GNU Emacs Manual. Node: Single-Byte European Support

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16.12: Single-byte European Character Support

The ISO 8859 Latin-n character sets define character codes in the range 160 to 255 to handle the accented letters and punctuation needed by various European languages. If you disable multibyte characters, Emacs can still handle one of these character codes at a time. To specify which of these codes to use, invoke M-x set-language-environment and specify a suitable language environment such as `Latin-n'.

For more information about unibyte operation, see Enabling Multibyte. Note particularly that you probably want to ensure that your initialization files are read as unibyte if they contain non-ASCII characters.

Emacs can also display those characters, provided the terminal or font in use supports them. This works automatically. Alternatively, if you are using a window system, Emacs can also display single-byte characters through fontsets, in effect by displaying the equivalent multibyte characters according to the current language environment. To request this, set the variable unibyte-display-via-language-environment to a non-nil value.

If your terminal does not support display of the Latin-1 character set, Emacs can display these characters as ASCII sequences which at least give you a clear idea of what the characters are. To do this, load the library iso-ascii. Similar libraries for other Latin-n character sets could be implemented, but we don't have them yet.

Normally non-ISO-8859 characters (between characters 128 and 159 inclusive) are displayed as octal escapes. You can change this for non-standard `extended' versions of ISO-8859 character sets by using the function standard-display-8bit in the disp-table library.

There are three different ways you can input single-byte non-ASCII characters:

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