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Difference Between ANSI and ASCII

ANSI and ASCII are two very old character encoding schemes or basically just ways to represent different characters in a digital format. Because of how old the two are, many confuse the two with each other. The main difference between ANSI and ASCII is the number of characters they can represent. ASCII was the first to be developed and when its limitations were reached, ANSI was one of the ways created to expand the number of characters that can be represented in an encoding.

When ASCII was created, it only used 7 bits for a total maximum combination of 128 characters. It was created for the English language and it proved good enough to hold all the letters, numbers, special characters and symbols, as well as non-printed characters.  In ANSI, 8 bits are used; increasing the maximum number of characters to be represented up to 256. This is expanded even further because of how ANSI uses code pages with different character sets. There are a number of ANSI code pages that are meant for other languages like Japanese, Chinese, and many others. The application processing the file just needs to know which code page is in use in order to decipher the files properly.

Even though ANSI seems to be the more superior among the two, there are also downsides to using it. The most major is in ensuring that the files it encoded can be reproduced accurately in different computers. Having the correct ANSI code page on the target computer is crucial in order for this to happen. This is not a major issue if the file would be opened in the same country because there is a high probability that they share the same code pages. But when the file is transmitted halfway around the world, like from Japan to the US where the languages are different, problems can appear. ASCII doesn’t have this problem because it is the same wherever you are in the world.

Both ASCII and ANSI have been replaced by the more comprehensive Unicode. The main difference between ANSI and ASCII in this aspect is backwards compatibility. The first 128 characters of Unicode is a direct match to ASCII. Thus, you can open an ASCII encoded file in Unicode without any problem. This is not always the case with ANSI because of the way it uses different code pages.


ANSI has more characters than ASCII

ASCII uses 7 bits while ANSI uses 8

ASCII characters are fixed to the code points while ANSI code points may represent different characters

ASCII is more straightforward to use than ANSI

ASCII works with Unicode while ANSI compatibility is very limited

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  1. It would read more clearly (and take up fewer bytes) if you replaced ” the more superior among the two” by “the better of the two”.

  2. What the hell is ANSI? American National Standards Institute! It’s a standards institute! An organization! It’s not a character encoding scheme per se, nor is it a character set. Note that a character encoding and a character set, albeit similar in concept, are not the same thing.

    There is ASCII (7 bit) and there is Extended ASCII (8 bit), sometimes called high-ASCII (above 128 character values). There is Extended ASCII by OEM (IBM PC), and there is Extended ASCII by ANSI (“ANSI”). But nevertheless, it’s Extended ASCII.

    The so called “ANSI encoding” means different things in different programs and operating systems (variable code points), but in a world with WinDOS this gets completely screwed up and any logic that had existed in that encoding before gets thrown out the WinDOw(s). In the context of Windows, ANSI is usually used to mean Extended ASCII or high-ASCII, and wrongfully so. Because this is not the Extended ASCII by ANSI (the organization), but Microsoft’s own Extended ASCII which they call ANSI code page.

    There you go! Share it if you care to.

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