The Web Design Group presents:

ISO 8859-1 character set overview

The HTML specifications state that HTML uses the ISO 8859-1 (Latin 1) character set for the encoding of documents. If you want to send out an HTML document and ensure everyone will be able to read it as you intended, it must be in this character set. If the protocol you use is not fully 8-bit, for example e-mail, a post to Usenet or FTP in "ascii" mode, then you should not use the characters above 127 directly, but instead in escaped form.

(Of course, the above does not apply if you are writing for a specific group of users, or need another character set for your language).

The following tables give all characters which are available in the ISO Latin 1 character set. In each table, you will see four columns:

  1. Char. This is the actual character.
  2. Code. This is the decimal code number for the character.
  3. Name. This is the entity name for the character.
  4. Description. A short description on the character.
In all cases, you may use the decimal code number to represent the character, or the entity name if that's available. A number is used like this: © to represent the 169th character. Since this character also has a name, you can also use © to represent it.

The table with characters uses a small GIF image for each character. This means you need to load up to 32 images per table. A faster way is probably to download the screenshot for the table, and use that as a reference.

A GIF image with the complete overview is also available (1143x1530 pixels, 70K).


ISO-8859-1 explicitly does not define displayable characters for positions 0-31 and 127-159, and the HTML standard does not allow those to be used for displayable characters. The only characters in this range that are used are 9, 10 and 13, which are tab, newline and carriage return respectively. If you attempt to display these invalid characters on your own system, you may find some characters displayed there, but please do not assume that other users will see the same thing (or even anything at all) on their systems.

The final specification for HTML 3.2 does not include the quot entity. Dan Connolly explained this on the www-html mailing list:

> Why is the " entity not present in the latest HTML 3.2
> specification, even though it is used in an example in
> the documentation?

No good reason. It's a mistake.


Although the specs require that all browsers support this character set, not all actually do. In particular, Macintosh browsers display the following 15 characters incorrectly: the broken vertical bar (¦), superscript 1 (¹), 2 (²) and 3 (³), shy (­) quarter (¼), half (½), three quarters (¾), uppercase (Ð) and lowercase eth (ð), uppercase (Þ) and lowercase thorn (þ), uppercase (Ý) and lowercase y acute (ý) and the multiplication sign (×). Macintosh users might want to install CourierWeb or ProfontWeb, monospaced font that can display all entities correctly. Alan Flavell maintains a more extensive dicussion of this topic.

In most cases, you will not need to use the " entity for the double quote ("). It might come in handy if you need it inside a quoted attribute value, for example as in ALT="My "new" site".

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Copyright © 1996 Arnoud "Galactus" Engelfriet.