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unicode_literals in Python

Last Updated : 21 Jun, 2021
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Unicode is also called Universal Character set. ASCII uses 8 bits(1 byte) to represents a character and can have a maximum of 256 (2^8) distinct combinations. The issue with the ASCII is that it can only support the English language but what if we want to use another language like Hindi, Russian, Chinese, etc. We didn’t have enough space in ASCII to covers up all these languages and emojis. This is where Unicode comes, Unicode provides us a huge table to which can store ASCII table and also the extent to store other languages, symbols, and emojis.

We actually can not save the text as Unicode directly. Because Unicode is just an abstract representation of the text data. We need some kind of encoding/mapping to map each character to a certain number. If a character uses more than 1 byte(8-bits), then all that bytes need to be packed as a single unit (think of a box with more than one item). This boxing method is called the UTF-8 method. In UTF-8 character can occupy a minimum of 8 bits and in UTF-16 a character can occupy a minimum of 16-bits. UTF is just an algorithm that turns Unicode into bytes and read it back

Normally, in python2 all string literals are considered as byte strings by default but in the later version of python, all the string literals are Unicode strings by default. So to make all the strings literals Unicode in python we use the following import :

from __future__ import unicode_literals

If we are using an older version of python, we need to import the unicode_literals from the future package. This import will make python2 behave as python3 does. This will make the code cross-python version compatible.

Python 2


import sys
# checking the default encoding of string
print "The default encoding for python2 is:",


The default encoding for python2 is: ascii

As in python2, the default encoding is ASCII we need to switch the encoding to utf-8. 


from __future__ import unicode_literals
# creating variables to holds
# the letters in python word.
p = "\u2119"
y = "\u01b4"
t = "\u2602"
h = "\u210c"
o = "\u00f8"
n = "\u1f24"
# printing Python
# encoding to utf-8 from ascii







# In python3
# By default the encoding is "utf-8"
import sys
# printing the default encoding
print("The default encoding for python3 is:", sys.getdefaultencoding())
# to define string as unicode
# we need to prefix every string with u"...."
p = u"\u2119"
y = u"\u01b4"
t = u"\u2602"
h = u"\u210c"
o = u"\u00f8"
n = u"\u1f24"
# printing Python


The default encoding for python3 is: utf-8


Sr. no. 





it will display double-struck capital P



it will display the Latin small letter Y with a hook.



it will display an umbrella.



it will display the capital letter H.



it will display the Latin small letter O with a stroke.



it will display the Greek letter ETA.

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