Character sets / encoding

Patrick Nagel mail at
Wed Sep 16 03:09:09 BST 2009

Hash: SHA1

Hi Peter,

On Tuesday 15 September 2009 22:51:04 Peter Lewis wrote:
> Thought that I should re-introduce this thread.
> I have received a mail with a subject line that contains the following
> characters (hex values):
>  6F 73 E9 3A 20 73 61 76 65 20 75 70 20 74 6F 20 A3 32 35 20
> This is intended to be (hope it comes across correctly):
> "osé: save up to £25 "
> What kmail displays on the subject line is:
> "...osى: save up to �25 ..."
> In the body of the email the same characters, vis. 0xe9 and 0xa3, are
> correctly displayed. In this case the code that displays the body of the
>  text handles character sets correctly but the code that displays the
>  subject line does not.
> As I am using kmail 1.10.3 as distributed with openSuSE 11.1, this may be
> history by now but I thought that it might make a good addendum to your
> thread.

Ok, this is another aspect of e-mail and encodings: All header values (the 
Subject is one of the headers) are supposed to be ASCII text (well, it was 
1982...). If you want to put non-ASCII characters into an e-mail header, you 
need to use an 'encoded-word' as described in RFC 2047.

My guess is, that in your mail, the non-ASCII characters appear in the 
Subject header without having been encoded as an 'encoded-word'. You can 
verify that by looking at the mail's source code. Do you see something like

Subject: =?utf-8?q?os=C3=A9=3A_save_up_to...

or do you see

Subject: osé: save up to...
(maybe with the é being corrupted)


If it is, what I suspect, the latter, this is no bug in KMail. The behaviour 
of the MUA is (to my knowledge) undefined if there are non-ASCII characters 
in a header value. In your case, KMail seems to have interpreted the string 
as UTF-8, although it is in fact ISO-8859-1 encoded.


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