18.1.6. email: Representing character sets

This module provides a class Charset for representing character sets and character set conversions in email messages, as well as a character set registry and several convenience methods for manipulating this registry. Instances of Charset are used in several other modules within the email package.

Import this class from the email.charset module.

class email.charset.Charset(input_charset=DEFAULT_CHARSET)

Map character sets to their email properties.

This class provides information about the requirements imposed on email for a specific character set. It also provides convenience routines for converting between character sets, given the availability of the applicable codecs. Given a character set, it will do its best to provide information on how to use that character set in an email message in an RFC-compliant way.

Certain character sets must be encoded with quoted-printable or base64 when used in email headers or bodies. Certain character sets must be converted outright, and are not allowed in email.

Optional input_charset is as described below; it is always coerced to lower case. After being alias normalized it is also used as a lookup into the registry of character sets to find out the header encoding, body encoding, and output conversion codec to be used for the character set. For example, if input_charset is iso-8859-1, then headers and bodies will be encoded using quoted-printable and no output conversion codec is necessary. If input_charset is euc-jp, then headers will be encoded with base64, bodies will not be encoded, but output text will be converted from the euc-jp character set to the iso-2022-jp character set.

Charset instances have the following data attributes:

The initial character set specified. Common aliases are converted to their official email names (e.g. latin_1 is converted to iso-8859-1). Defaults to 7-bit us-ascii.
If the character set must be encoded before it can be used in an email header, this attribute will be set to Charset.QP (for quoted-printable), Charset.BASE64 (for base64 encoding), or Charset.SHORTEST for the shortest of QP or BASE64 encoding. Otherwise, it will be None.
Same as header_encoding, but describes the encoding for the mail message’s body, which indeed may be different than the header encoding. Charset.SHORTEST is not allowed for body_encoding.
Some character sets must be converted before they can be used in email headers or bodies. If the input_charset is one of them, this attribute will contain the name of the character set output will be converted to. Otherwise, it will be None.
The name of the Python codec used to convert the input_charset to Unicode. If no conversion codec is necessary, this attribute will be None.
The name of the Python codec used to convert Unicode to the output_charset. If no conversion codec is necessary, this attribute will have the same value as the input_codec.

Charset instances also have the following methods:


Return the content transfer encoding used for body encoding.

This is either the string quoted-printable or base64 depending on the encoding used, or it is a function, in which case you should call the function with a single argument, the Message object being encoded. The function should then set the Content-Transfer-Encoding header itself to whatever is appropriate.

Returns the string quoted-printable if body_encoding is QP, returns the string base64 if body_encoding is BASE64, and returns the string 7bit otherwise.


Return the output character set.

This is the output_charset attribute if that is not None, otherwise it is input_charset.


Header-encode the string string.

The type of encoding (base64 or quoted-printable) will be based on the header_encoding attribute.

header_encode_lines(string, maxlengths)

Header-encode a string by converting it first to bytes.

This is similar to header_encode() except that the string is fit into maximum line lengths as given by the argument maxlengths, which must be an iterator: each element returned from this iterator will provide the next maximum line length.


Body-encode the string string.

The type of encoding (base64 or quoted-printable) will be based on the body_encoding attribute.

The Charset class also provides a number of methods to support standard operations and built-in functions.

Returns input_charset as a string coerced to lower case. __repr__() is an alias for __str__().
This method allows you to compare two Charset instances for equality.
This method allows you to compare two Charset instances for inequality.

The email.charset module also provides the following functions for adding new entries to the global character set, alias, and codec registries:

email.charset.add_charset(charset, header_enc=None, body_enc=None, output_charset=None)

Add character properties to the global registry.

charset is the input character set, and must be the canonical name of a character set.

Optional header_enc and body_enc is either Charset.QP for quoted-printable, Charset.BASE64 for base64 encoding, Charset.SHORTEST for the shortest of quoted-printable or base64 encoding, or None for no encoding. SHORTEST is only valid for header_enc. The default is None for no encoding.

Optional output_charset is the character set that the output should be in. Conversions will proceed from input charset, to Unicode, to the output charset when the method Charset.convert() is called. The default is to output in the same character set as the input.

Both input_charset and output_charset must have Unicode codec entries in the module’s character set-to-codec mapping; use add_codec() to add codecs the module does not know about. See the codecs module’s documentation for more information.

The global character set registry is kept in the module global dictionary CHARSETS.

email.charset.add_alias(alias, canonical)

Add a character set alias. alias is the alias name, e.g. latin-1. canonical is the character set’s canonical name, e.g. iso-8859-1.

The global charset alias registry is kept in the module global dictionary ALIASES.

email.charset.add_codec(charset, codecname)

Add a codec that map characters in the given character set to and from Unicode.

charset is the canonical name of a character set. codecname is the name of a Python codec, as appropriate for the second argument to the str‘s decode() method

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