to the
Use of Character Set Standards
in Europe

There exist today a large number of standards and related specifications concerning character repertoires and their coding in the form of official as well as manufacturer standards and intended for a wide range of applications and uses. Furthermore, there are character set standards for data communication and there are standards developed specifically for telecommunications applications. This situation can be very confusing to the non-expert user and to people involved in procurement.
     The user of IT systems normally does not have to concern himself with these types of standards. However, there may be situations where he has to be able to express his needs for certain character repertoires necessary for his work. It may also happen that he, when involved in work together with other parties using other systems, needs to be able to interpret other people’s specifications given in the form of reference to standards.

Against this background, CEN/TC 304 in June, 1998, set up a project team with the task of producing a guidance document on the use of character set standards and related specifications in Europe. In the terms of reference it is stated that the guide "is to be useful for procurement purposes and non-technical people". Furthermore, it "shall merge the existing guides ... (the existing CEN Guide, the EPHOS Character Sets module, and the EWOS GOSS character set guide), bringing the information up to date as necessary and adding material on the new 10646/Unicode code structure".

A first draft of the guide was discussed at an open meeting during the TC 304 plenary meeting in November, 1998. Based on the comments received, a second draft was recently distributed to the National Standards Bodies for comments.

What happens next?
The intention is to produce a final draft for discussion and agreement at an open meeting on 22 April 1999 during the next TC 304 plenary meeting in Tčbingen, Germany. The (slightly) revised document resulting from that open meeting will then be presented to the plenary on the next day for approval by TC resolution. If approved, it will be forwarded to the CEN Technical Board for final approval as a CEN Report.

Comments are invited. In order for them to be considered during the preparation of the final draft they should be received by the TC 304 secretariat not later than 12 April. (E-mail:; fax: +354-520-7171.)

E-mail discussion
In order to facilitate discussion on this particular topic, a separate mailing list has been created. If you want to take part, please send a message saying so to the project team leader, Mats Linder, at

Documents and information:
First draft

Second draft:

- HTML format

- doc format: Guide only | Annex A | Annex B |

Terms of Reference

Report on Open Meeting

Project Team members