1. I created a text file by copying its different parts from different sources (webpages, other text files, pdf files) into gedit and saving it to the file. I guess that is the reason that I have multiple encodings in the text file, but I am not sure. How can I avoid creating a text file with mixed encodings by copying its different parts from different sources into gedit?
  2. Whenever I open the file in gedit, gedit can always show or decode every part of the text correctly. It seems that gedit can handle a text file with mixed encodings, but I am not sure.

    But when I open the file in emacs, there will be characters that can't be shown correctly. (I am not sure why emacs can't do that.) So I would like to convert the file from mixed encodings to a single encoding such as utf-8.

    Since I think gedit can detect the correct encodings for different parts of the text file, and I don't know if there are other applications that can do so, would it be possible to ask gedit to convert the file to utf-8, or at least tell me what encoding it finds for which part of the file?


  • When you click File > Save As, you should see two options on the bottom of the window, one for character encoding, and second for line endings. – jeremija Sep 27 '14 at 17:37
  • Is that the encoding which gedit used for opening the text file? – Tim Sep 27 '14 at 17:39
  • Most probably it is. – jeremija Sep 27 '14 at 17:41
  • Is that also the encoding which gedit guessed for the text file? – Tim Sep 27 '14 at 17:42
  • I guess so. When you open a file you can also choose an encoding to use, or you can let it auto detect the encoding. – jeremija Sep 27 '14 at 17:43

Hmmm... the concept of a file with various encoding is somewhat wobbly, to be honest. If you have a bit of time, this article (and this one) are worth reading.

For Linux a file is a sequence of bytes. If you ask a program to interpret it as a text file, it will do it using a mapping between bytes and characters; this mapping is the encoding. Almost all the text editor I know (not word processors!) just understand the concept of one encoding for one file.

I am not expert on gedit; maybe it is doing some magic like trying to autodetect the encoding line by line or text block by text block... if it is the case you can try to do the same using enca(1):

 while read line; do echo $line | enconv -L none -x utf8; done < text.mixed > text.utf8

...but it depends on how good is enca in guessing you encoding (works almost well with Eastern European, but not with Latin1, for example).

(1) It's in the repos, just install it with sudo apt-get enca.

  • (1) But I may be wrong. I get the impression of mixed encodings from using tools such as chardet to detect the mixed encodings for the file, and from failing to convert all of the text file to another encoding by specifying only one original encoding. (2) Generally, if you copy texts from different sources possibly with different encodings to a gedit window, and save it to a file, will gedit save it with just one encoding? Which encoding does gedit use for saving? Does that involve conversion from the sources' encodings to the file's encoding? – Tim Sep 27 '14 at 18:09
  • I do not know if the copy/paste protocol has the possibility to send the encoding together with the data, and if all the copy sources send it. I fear not, but I could be wrong. So probably there is a guessing wrong here. I know for sure that copy and paste between different encoding seldom works. – Rmano Sep 27 '14 at 22:10

I had the same problem and solved it with Emacs. The solution is quoted from here:

Another possible solution is to mark each region appearing with Chinese characters and recode it with M-x recode-region, giving "Text was really in" as utf-16-le and "But was interpreted as" as utf-16-be.

Another one is to split the two parts which have different encodings, copy them into different files, convert the encoding of the one and add it to the other. In my case this worked with Atom, but not with Notepad++ (utf16-le/be).

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