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18.1.1 Handling Multibyte and Varying-Width Characters

diff, diff3 and sdiff treat each line of input as a string of unibyte characters. This can mishandle multibyte characters in some cases. For example, when asked to ignore spaces, diff does not properly ignore a multibyte space character.

Also, diff currently assumes that each byte is one column wide, and this assumption is incorrect in some locales, e.g., locales that use UTF-8 encoding. This causes problems with the ‘-y’ or ‘--side-by-side’ option of diff.

These problems need to be fixed without unduly affecting the performance of the utilities in unibyte environments.

The IBM GNU/Linux Technology Center Internationalization Team has proposed some patches to support internationalized diff http://oss.software.ibm.com/developer/opensource/linux/patches/i18n/diffutils-2.7.2-i18n-0.1.patch.gz. Unfortunately, these patches are incomplete and are to an older version of diff, so more work needs to be done in this area.


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