Difference between ANSI and Unicode

Character encoding standards used in computers include ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and Unicode.

  • ANSI is not a character encoding in and of itself but rather a collection of character sets utilized by several standards organizations.

  • Unicode is a universal character encoding standard that was created to include characters from all of the world's writing systems.

Read this article to find out more about ANSI and iPhoto and how they are different from each other.

What is ANSI?

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private, non-profit organization in the United States that oversees the development of voluntary consensus standards for a wide range of products, services, processes, and systems.

  • ANSI is frequently connected with character encoding standards in computing, but it is important to emphasize that ANSI does not produce character encodings. Rather, it adopts or endorses character encodings created by other standards bodies.

  • "ANSI" is a misnomer and can be deceptive in the context of character encodings. It is frequently used to refer to several character encoding systems produced by organizations such as ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and ECMA (European Computer Manufacturers Association).

  • The word "ANSI" character encoding is most commonly used in the Microsoft Windows operating system environment, where it usually refers to the Windows-1252-character encoding.

Key Points about ANSI

  • Windows-1252 (ANSI) − Windows-1252 is a character encoding that is a superset of ISO 8859-1 (Latin-1) and is frequently referred to as "ANSI" in the context of Microsoft Windows computers. Microsoft created it to support the character needs of Western European languages, primarily English, French, German, Spanish, and others.

  • 8-Bit Character Encoding − Windows 1252 uses an eight-bit character encoding, which means that each character is represented by eight bits (1 byte). This allows for the representation of a total of 256 different characters.

  • ASCII Compatibility − Windows-1252's first 128 characters (0 to 127) are identical to the ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) character set. Because of this compatibility, ASCII characters can be used without change.

  • Lack of Cross-Platform Consistency − One significant disadvantage of utilizing Windows-1252 (ANSI) character encoding is that it is not consistently supported across platforms and systems. For example, issues can arise when exchanging text across various operating systems or apps that use different character encodings due to a lack of cross-platform compatibility.

What is Unicode?

Unicode is a character encoding standard that aspires to provide a universal and uniform manner of representing text from all of the world's writing systems. It was created to address the drawbacks of previous character encodings such as ASCII and ANSI, which were designed for specific languages and lacked compatibility for many characters outside of the English-speaking world.

Unicode is the basis for multilingual computing and communication because it allows computers to represent and exchange text in any language, script, or symbol system.

Key Points about Unicode

  • Universal Character Set − Unicode provides a single, large character set that includes characters from nearly all known writing systems. It includes characters from popular languages such as English, Chinese, Arabic, Cyrillic, and Japanese, as well as scripts used for ancient languages, mathematical symbols, emojis, and more. It comprises over 144,000 characters as of the most recent version, Unicode 14.0 (published in September 2021).

  • Unique Code Points − Each Unicode character is assigned a unique code point, which is a numerical number that is used to represent that character. The code points are commonly prefixed with "U+" and are represented in hexadecimal format (e.g., U+0041 for the letter "A"). These code points allow computers and applications to correctly identify and handle each character.

  • Backward Compatibility − Backward compatibility with ASCII is one of Unicode's major advantages. Unicode's initial 128 characters are identical to the ASCII character set. This compatibility ensures that ASCII-based systems and applications may coexist seamlessly alongside Unicode.

  • Standardization − The Unicode Consortium, a non-profit organization that manages the ongoing development of the Unicode standard, creates and maintains Unicode. The Consortium collaborates with specialists from diverse industries, like linguistics, computing, and typography, to assure the standard's integrity and authenticity.

Difference between ANSI and Unicode

The following table highlights the major differences between ANSI and Unicode −




Character Set

Limited character set, mainly focused on Western languages and characters.

Comprehensive character set, including emojis, symbols, and characters from all languages.

Cross-Platform Consistency

Inconsistent support across platforms and systems.

Consistent support across platforms, ensuring seamless text representation and communication.

Backward Compatibility

Not fully backward compatible with ASCII.

Fully backward compatible with ASCII. The first 128 characters in Unicode are identical to ASCII.


Developed by various standards organizations.

Developed and maintained by the Unicode Consortium, a non-profit organization.

Multilingual Support

Limited multilingual support.

Comprehensive multilingual support.

Number of Bits per Character

Typically, 8-bit (1 byte) per character.

Variable-length, from 8 to 32 bits per character, depending on the encoding form (e.g., UTF-8, UTF-16, UTF-32).

Language Coverage

Limited to English and Western European languages.

Comprehensive, covering characters from all languages and scripts worldwide.


In conclusion, ANSI is a set of character encodings with restricted language coverage that is primarily used in older systems, whereas Unicode is a comprehensive character encoding standard that supports all languages and symbols, making it the preferred choice for current applications and platforms.

Updated on: 16-Aug-2023


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