New version of php offers more to the developer on human language and character encoding support
The libraries included are

  • Enchant
  • FriBiDi
  • Gender
  • Gettext
  • iconv
  • intl
  • Multibyte String
  • Pspell
  • Recode


Enchant is the PHP binding for the » Enchant library. Enchant steps in to provide uniformity and conformity on top of all spelling libraries, and implement certain features that may be lacking in any individual provider library. Everything should “just work” for any and every definition of “just working.”

  • Enchant supports the following backends:
  • Aspell/Pspell (intends to replace Ispell)
  • Ispell (old as sin, could be interpreted as a defacto standard)
  • MySpell/Hunspell (an OOo projects, also used by Mozilla)
  • Uspell (primarily Yiddish, Hebrew, and Eastern European languages – hosted in AbiWord’s CVS under the module “uspell”)
  • Hspell (Hebrew)
  • AppleSpell (Mac OSX)


FriBiDi is a free implementation of the » Unicode Bidirectional Algorithm.
The Unicode Standard prescribes a memory representation order known as logical order. When text is presented in horizontal lines, most scripts display characters from left to right. However, there are several scripts (such as Arabic or Hebrew) where the natural ordering of horizontal text in display is from right to left. If all of the text has a uniform horizontal direction, then the ordering of the display text is unambiguous.

However, because these right-to-left scripts use digits that are written from left to right, the text is actually bidirectional: a mixture of right-to-left and left-to-right text. In addition to digits, embedded words from English and other scripts are also written from left to right, also producing bidirectional text. Without a clear specification, ambiguities can arise in determining the ordering of the displayed characters when the horizontal direction of the text is not uniform.

This annex describes the algorithm used to determine the directionality for bidirectional Unicode text. The algorithm extends the implicit model currently employed by a number of existing implementations and adds explicit formatting characters for special circumstances. In most cases, there is no need to include additional information with the text to obtain correct display ordering.

However, in the case of bidirectional text, there are circumstances where an implicit bidirectional ordering is not sufficient to produce comprehensible text. To deal with these cases, a minimal set of directional formatting characters is defined to control the ordering of characters when rendered. This allows exact control of the display ordering for legible interchange and ensures that plain text used for simple items like filenames or labels can always be correctly ordered for display.

The directional formatting characters are used only to influence the display ordering of text. In all other respects they should be ignored—they have no effect on the comparison of text or on word breaks, parsing, or numeric analysis.

Each character has an implicit bidirectional type. The bidirectional types left-to-right and right-to-left are called strong types, and characters of those types are called strong directional characters. The bidirectional types associated with numbers are called weak types, and characters of those types are called weak directional characters. With the exception of the directional formatting characters, the remaining bidirectional types and characters are called neutral. The algorithm uses the implicit bidirectional types of the characters in a text to arrive at a reasonable display ordering for text.

When working with bidirectional text, the characters are still interpreted in logical order—only the display is affected. The display ordering of bidirectional text depends on the directional properties of the characters in the text. Note that there are important security issues connected with bidirectional text


Gender PHP extension is a port of the gender.c program originally written by Joerg Michael. The main purpose is to find out the gender of firstnames. The current database contains >40000 firstnames from 54 countries.


The gettext functions implement an NLS (Native Language Support) API which can be used to internationalize your PHP applications. Please see the gettext documentation for your system for a thorough explanation of these functions or view the docs at »


This module contains an interface to iconv character set conversion facility. With this module, you can turn a string represented by a local character set into the one represented by another character set, which may be the Unicode character set. Supported character sets depend on the iconv implementation of your system. Note that the iconv function on some systems may not work as you expect. In such case, it’d be a good idea to install the » GNU libiconv library. It will most likely end up with more consistent results.

Since PHP 5.0.0, this extension comes with various utility functions that help you to write multilingual scripts. Let’s have a look at the following sections to explore the new features.


Internationalization extension (further is referred as Intl) is a wrapper for » ICU library, enabling PHP programmers to perform » UCA-conformant collation and date/time/number/currency formatting in their scripts.

It tends to closely follow ICU APIs, so that people having experience working with ICU in either C/C++ or Java could easily use the PHP API. Also, this way ICU documentation would be useful to understand various ICU functions.

Intl consists of several modules, each of them exposes the corresponding ICU API:

  • Collator: provides string comparison capability with support for appropriate locale-sensitive sort orderings.
  • Number Formatter: allows to display number according to the localized format or given pattern or set of rules, and to parse strings into numbers.
  • Message Formatter: allows to create messages incorporating data (such as numbers or dates) formatted according to given pattern and locale rules, and parse messages extracting data from them.
  • Normalizer: provides a function to transform text into one of the Unicode normalization forms, and provides a routine to test if a given string is already normalized.
  • Locale: provides interaction with locale identifiers in the form of functions to get subtags from locale identifier; parse, compose, match(lookup and filter) locale identifiers.

Multibyte String

While there are many languages in which every necessary character can be represented by a one-to-one mapping to an 8-bit value, there are also several languages which require so many characters for written communication that they cannot be contained within the range a mere byte can code (A byte is made up of eight bits. Each bit can contain only two distinct values, one or zero. Because of this, a byte can only represent 256 unique values (two to the power of eight)). Multibyte character encoding schemes were developed to express more than 256 characters in the regular bytewise coding system.

When you manipulate (trim, split, splice, etc.) strings encoded in a multibyte encoding, you need to use special functions since two or more consecutive bytes may represent a single character in such encoding schemes. Otherwise, if you apply a non-multibyte-aware string function to the string, it probably fails to detect the beginning or ending of the multibyte character and ends up with a corrupted garbage string that most likely loses its original meaning.

mbstring provides multibyte specific string functions that help you deal with multibyte encodings in PHP. In addition to that, mbstring handles character encoding conversion between the possible encoding pairs. mbstring is designed to handle Unicode-based encodings such as UTF-8 and UCS-2 and many single-byte encodings for convenience


These functions allow you to check the spelling of a word and offer suggestions.


This module contains an interface to the GNU Recode library. The GNU Recode library converts files between various coded character sets and surface encodings. When this cannot be achieved exactly, it may get rid of the offending characters or fall back on approximations. The library recognises or produces nearly 150 different character sets and is able to convert files between almost any pair. Most » RFC 1345 character sets are supported.


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