NLS_LANG FAQ

As an FAQ you can easily navigate to the sections of interest. It is recommended to start with the NLS_LANG Parameter Fundamentals section first to get a basic understanding of how the NLS_LANG parameter works.

NLS_LANG Parameter Fundamentals

Common NLS_LANG Myths

Checking the current NLS_LANG Setting

The Priority of NLS Parameters related to NLS_LANG

Session Parameters

Instance Parameters

Database Parameters

An example of a wrong NLS_LANG setup

How to setup the NLS_LANG Properly for UNIX

How to setup the NLS_LANG Properly for Windows and DOS Code Pages

Where to set the NLS_LANG in Windows

Determine your Windows ANSI code page

The correct NLS_LANG for Windows Command Line Operations

List of common NLS_LANG settings used in the Windows Registry:

List of common NLS_LANG settings used in the Command Prompt (DOS box)

Other Frequently asked questions regarding NLS_LANG

What does the LANGUAGE component of the NLS_LANG parameter control?

What does the TERRITORY component of the NLS_LANG parameter control?

How to see what's really stored in the database?

Where is the Character Conversion Done?

Windows SQL*Plus is not showing all my extended characters?

I get a question mark or inverted question mark when selecting back just inserted characters?

Is iSQL*Plus the only unicode enabled client we support?

What about command line tools like SQL*Loader, Import, Export, utilities?

What about database links?

What about Multiple Homes on Windows?

Is there an Oracle Unicode Client on Windows?

What is a Character set or Code Page?

Why Are There Different Character sets?

What is the difference between 7 bit, 8 bit and Unicode Character sets?

How to choose the right database character set?

 

NLS_LANG Parameter Fundamentals

A locale is a set of information addressing linguistic and cultural requirements that corresponds to a given language and country. Traditionally, the data associated with a locale provides support for formatting and parsing of dates, times, numbers, and currencies, etc. Providing current and correct locale data has historically been the responsibility of each platform owner or vendor, leading to inconsistencies and errors in locale data.

Setting the NLS_LANG environment parameter is the simplest way to specify locale behavior for Oracle software. It sets the language and territory used by the client application and the database server. It also indicates the client's character set, which corresponds to the character set for data to be entered or displayed by a client program.

NLS_LANG is set as a local environment variable on UNIX platforms. NLS_LANG is set in the registry on Windows platforms.

The NLS_LANG parameter has three components: language, territory, and character set. Specify it in the following format, including the punctuation:

NLS_LANG = language_territory.charset

Each component of the NLS_LANG parameter controls the operation of a subset of globalization support features:

Language

Specifies conventions such as the language used for Oracle messages, sorting, day names, and month names. Each supported language has a unique name; for example, AMERICAN , FRENCH , or GERMAN . The language argument specifies default values for the territory and character set arguments. If the language is not specified, then the value defaults to AMERICAN .

Territory

Specifies conventions such as the default date, monetary, and numeric formats. Each supported territory has a unique name; for example, AMERICA , FRANCE , or CANADA . If the territory is not specified, then the value is derived from the language value.

Charset

Specifies the character set used by the client application (normally the Oracle character set that corresponds to the user's terminal character set or the OS character set). Each supported character set has a unique acronym, for example, US7ASCII , WE8ISO8859P1 , WE8DEC , WE8MSWIN1252 , or JA16EUC . Each language has a default character set associated with it.

Note:

All components of the NLS_LANG definition are optional; any item that is not specified uses its default value. If you specify territory or character set, then you must include the preceding delimiter [underscore (_) for territory, period (.) for character set]. Otherwise, the value is parsed as a language name.

For example, to set only the territory portion of NLS_LANG , use the following format: NLS_LANG=_JAPAN

The remainder of this document will focus on the charset component of the NLS_LANG setting, as it is the least understood and most important piece to set correctly.

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Common NLS_LANG Myths

·          Setting the NLS_LANG to the character set of the database MAY be correct but IS often not correct. DO NOT assume that NLS_LANG needs to be the same as the database character set. THIS IS OFTEN NOT TRUE.

·          The character set defined with the NLS_LANG parameter does NOT CHANGE your client's character set. It is used to let Oracle know what character set you are USING on the client side, so Oracle can do the proper conversion. You cannot change the character set of your client by using a different NLS_LANG!

·          If you don't set the NLS_LANG on the client it uses the NLS_LANG of the server. This is also NOT true! For example, if the Oracle Installer does not populate NLS_LANG , and it is not otherwise set then its value by default is A MERICAN_AMERICA.US7ASCII . The language is AMERICAN , the territory is AMERICA , and the character set is US7ASCII .

·          Setting the LANGUAGE and TERRITORY parameters of NLS_LANG has nothing to do with the ability to store characters in a database. A NLS_LANG set to JAPANESE_JAPAN.WE8MSWIN1252 will not allow you to store Japanese, as WE8MSWIN1252 doesn't support Japanese characters. However a NLS_LANG set to AMERICAN_AMERICA.JA16SJIS will allow you to store Japanese providing the input data is truly JA16SJIS and if the database is also in a character set that can store Japanese like UTF8 or JA16SJIS)

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Checking the current NLS_LANG Setting

In many cases the NLS_LANG has been already set during the Oracle install or thereafter manually. To be sure you can use these methods to get back the value of NLS_LANG for SQL*Plus:

On UNIX:

SQL> HOST ECHO $NLS_LANG

This returns the value of the parameter.

On Windows:

On Windows you have two possible options, normally the NLS_LANG is set in the registry, but it can also be set in the environment, however this is not often done. The value in the environment takes precedence over the value in the registry and is used for ALL Oracle_Homes on the server. Also note that any USER environment variable takes precedence over any SYSTEM environment variable (this is Windows behavior, and has nothing to do with Oracle) if set.

To check if it's set in the environment:

 SQL> HOST ECHO %NLS_LANG%

If this reports just %NLS_LANG% back, the variable is not set in the environment.

If it's set it reports something like

 ENGLISH_UNITED KINGDOM.WE8ISO8859P1

If NLS_LANG is not set in the environment, check the value in the registry:

SQL>@.[%NLS_LANG%].

If you get something like:

 Unable to open file.[ENGLISH_UNITED KINGDOM.WE8ISO8859P1].

The "file name" between the braces is the value of the registry parameter.

If you get this as result:

Unable to open file ".[%NLS_LANG%]." then the parameter NLS_LANG is also not set in the registry.

Note the @.[%NLS_LANG%]. technique reports the NLS_LANG known by the SQL*Plus executable, it will not read the registry itself. But if you run the HOST command first and the NLS_LANG is not set in the environment then you can be sure the variable is set in the registry if the @.[%NLS_LANG%]. returns a valid value.

All other NLS parameters can be retrieved by a:

SELECT * FROM NLS_SESSION_PARAMETERS;

Note:

SELECT USERENV ('language') FROM DUAL; gives the session's <Language>_<territory> but the DATABASE character set not the client, so the value returned is not the client's complete NLS_LANG setting!

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The Priority of NLS Parameters related to NLS_LANG

This section explains the order in which NLS parameters are taken into account in the database client/server model. (This does NOT cover Thin JDBC connections)

There are 3 levels at which you can set NLS parameters: Database, Instance and

Session. If a parameter is defined at more than one level then the rules on which one takes precedence are quite straightforward:

1. NLS database settings are superseded by NLS instance settings

2. NLS database & NLS instance settings are superseded by NLS session settings

Session Parameters

SELECT * from NLS_SESSION_PARAMETERS;

These are the settings used for the current SQL session.

These reflect (in this order):

1) The values of NLS parameters set by "ALTER SESSION "

ALTER SESSION set NLS_DATE_FORMAT = 'DD/MM/YYYY';

2) If there is no explicit "ALTER SESSION " statement done then it reflects the setting of the corresponding NLS parameter on the client derived from the NLS_LANG variable.

3) If NLS_LANG is specified with only the <Territory> part then AMERICAN is used as default <Language>.

So if you set NLS_LANG=_BELGIUM. WE8MSWIN1252 then you get this:

PARAMETER VALUE

------------------------------ --------------

NLS_LANGUAGE AMERICAN

NLS_TERRITORY BELGIUM

NLS_CURRENCY <euro sign here>

NLS_ISO_CURRENCY BELGIUM

....

Note:

The difference between NLS_LANG=_BELGIUM.WE8MSWIN1252 (correct) and

NLS_LANG=BELGIUM.WE8MSWIN1252 (incorrect), you need to set the "_" as separator.

4) If NLS_LANG is specified with only the <Language> part then the <Territory> defaults to a setting based on <Language>.

So if you set NLS_LANG=ITALIAN_.WE8MSWIN1252 then you get this:

PARAMETER VALUE

------------------------------ --------------

NLS_LANGUAGE ITALIAN

NLS_TERRITORY ITALY

NLS_CURRENCY <euro sign here>

NLS_ISO_CURRENCY ITALY

.....

Note:

Note the difference between NLS_LANG=ITALIAN_.WE8MSWIN1252 (correct) and

NLS_LANG=ITALIAN.WE8MSWIN1252 (incorrect), you need to set the "_" as separator.

5) If NLS_LANG is specified without the <Language>_<Territory> part then the <Language>_<Territory> part defaults to AMERICAN_AMERICA.

So if you set NLS_LANG=.WE8MSWIN1252 then you get this:

PARAMETER VALUE

------------------------------ ----------

NLS_LANGUAGE AMERICAN

NLS_TERRITORY AMERICA

NLS_CURRENCY $

NLS_ISO_CURRENCY AMERICA

....

Note:

The difference between NLS_LANG=.WE8MSWIN1252 (correct) and

NLS_LANG=WE8MSWIN1252 (incorrect), you need to set the "." as separator.

6) If the NLS_LANG is set (either like in point 3, 4 or 5) then parameters like

NLS_SORT, NLS_DATE_FORMAT, etc. can be set as a "standalone" setting and will overrule the defaults derived from NLS_LANG <Language>_<Territory> part.

So if you set NLS_LANG=AMERICAN_AMERICA.WE8MSWIN1252 and NLS_ISO_CURRENCY=FRANCE then you get this:

PARAMETER VALUE

------------------------------ -----------

NLS_LANGUAGE AMERICAN

NLS_TERRITORY AMERICA

NLS_CURRENCY $

NLS_ISO_CURRENCY FRANCE

...

Defaults:

---------

* If NLS_DATE_LANGUAGE or NLS_SORT are not set then they are derived from

NLS_LANGUAGE.

* If NLS_CURRENCY, NLS_DUAL_CURRENCY, NLS_ISO_CURRENCY, NLS_DATE_FORMAT, NLS_TIMESTAMP_FORMAT, NLS_TIMESTAMP_TZ_FORMAT, NLS_NUMERIC_CHARACTERS are not set then they are derived from NLS_TERRITORY

7) If the NLS_LANG is not set at all, then it defaults to

<Language>_<Territory>.US7ASCII and the values for the

<Language>_<Territory> part used are the ones found in

NLS_INSTANCE_PARAMETERS. Parameters like NLS_SORT defined as "standalone" on the client side are ignored.

Note:

* If set, client parameters (NLS_SESSION_PARAMETERS) always take precedence over NLS_INSTANCE_PARAMETERS and NLS_DATABASE_PARAMETERS.

* This behavior cannot be disabled on/from the server, so a parameter set on the client always has precedence above an instance or database parameter.

* NLS_LANG cannot be changed by ALTER SESSION, NLS_LANGUAGE and NLS_TERRITORY can. However NLS_LANGUAGE and /or NLS_TERRITORY cannot be set as "standalone" parameters in the environment or registry on the client.

* NLS_SESSION_PARAMETERS is NOT visible for other sessions. If you need to trace this then you have to use a logon trigger to create your own logging table (based on session parameters)

* The <clients characterset> part of NLS_LANG is NOT shown in any system table or view.

* On Windows you have two possible options, normally the NLS_LANG is set in the registry, but it can also be set in the environment, however this is not often done and generally not recommended to do so. The value in the environment takes precedence over the value in the registry and is used for ALL Oracle_Homes on the server if defined as a system environment variable.

* NLS_LANGUAGE in the session parameters also declares the language for the client error messages.

* You cannot "set" a NLS parameter in an SQL script; you need to use ALTER SESSION.

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Instance Parameters

SELECT * from NLS_INSTANCE_PARAMETERS;

These are the settings in the init.ora of the database at the moment that the database was started or set through ALTER SYSTEM.

If the parameter is not explicitly set in the init.ora or defined by ALTER SYSTEM then its value is NOT derived from a "higher" parameter (we are talking about parameters like NLS_SORT that derive a default from NLS_LANGUAGE in NLS_SESSION_PARAMETERS, this is NOT the case for NLS_INSTANCE_PARAMETERS)

Note:

* NLS_LANG is not an init.ora parameter; NLS_LANGUAGE and NLS_TERRITORY are so you need to set NLS_LANGUAGE and NLS_TERRITORY separately.

* You cannot define the <clients characterset> or NLS_LANG in the init.ora

The client characterset is defined by the NLS_LANG on the client OS (see above).

* You cannot define the database characterset in the init.ora. The database characterset is defined by the "Create Database" command.

* These settings take precedence above the NLS_DATABASE_PARAMETERS.

* These values are used for the NLS_SESSION_PARAMETERS if the client the

NLS_LANG is NOT set.

* Oracle strongly recommends that you set the NLS_LANG on the client at least to

NLS_LANG=.<clients characterset>

* The NLS_LANGUAGE in the instance parameters also declares the language for the server error messages in alert.log and in trace files.

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Database Parameters

SELECT * from NLS_DATABASE_PARAMETERS;

Defaults to AMERICAN_AMERICA if there are no parameters explicitly set in the init.ora during database creation time. If there is parameters set in the init.ora during database creation you see them here. There is no way to change these after the database creation. Do NOT attempt to update system tables to bypass these settings! These settings are used to give the database a default if the INSTANCE and SESSION parameters are not set.

Note:

* NLS_LANG is not an init.ora parameter, NLS_LANGUAGE and NLS_TERRITORY are.

So you need to set NLS_LANGUAGE and NLS_TERRITORY separately.

* These parameters are overridden by NLS_INSTANCE_PARAMETERS and NLS_SESSION_PARAMETERS.

* You cannot define the <clients character set> or NLS_LANG in the init.ora. The client character set is defined by the NLS_LANG on the client OS.

* You cannot define the database character set in the init.ora.

The database (national) character set NLS_(NCHAR)_CHARACTERSET) is defined by the "Create Database" command.

* The NLS_CHARACTERSET and NLS_NCHAR_CHARACTERSET parameters cannot be overridden by instance or session parameters.

They are defined by the value specified in the "CREATE DATABASE command and are not intended to be changed afterwards dynamically. Do NOT update system tables to change the character set. This can corrupt your database and potentially make it impossible to open the database again.

* Setting the NLS_LANG during the creation of the database does not influence the NLS_DATABASE_PARAMETERS.

* The NLS_LANG set during the database creation has NO impact on the database National Characterset.

Additional SELECT statements:

A) SELECT name,value$ from sys.props$ where name like '%NLS%';

This gives the same info as NLS_DATABASE_PARAMETERS.

You should use NLS_DATABASE_PARAMETERS instead of props$.

Note the UPPERCASE '%NLS%'

B) SELECT * from v$nls_parameters;

This view shows the current session parameters and the *DATABASE* characterset as seen in the NLS_DATABASE_PARAMETERS view.

C) SELECT name,value from v$parameter where name like '%NLS%';

This view gives the same information as NLS_INSTANCE_PARAMETERS.

Note the LOWERCASE '%NLS%'

D) SELECT userenv ('language') from dual;

and

SELECT sys_context('userenv','language') from dual;

Both these SELECT statements give the session's <Language>_<territory> and the

DATABASE character set. The database character set is not the same as the character set of the NLS_LANG that you started this connection with! So don't be fooled, although the output of this query looks like the value of a NLS_LANG variable, it is NOT.

E) SELECT userenv ('lang') from dual;

This SELECT gives the short code that Oracle uses for the Language defined by NLS_LANGUAGE setting for this session. If NLS_LANGUAGE is set to French then this will return "F", if NLS_LANGUAGE is set to English then this will return "GB"

If NLS_LANGUAGE is set to American then this will return "US", and so on...

F) SHOW parameter NLS%

This will give the same as the NLS_INSTANCE_PARAMETERS

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An example of a wrong NLS_LANG setup

A database is created on a UNIX system with the US7ASCII character set. A Windows client connecting to the database works with the WE8MSWIN1252 character set (regional settings -> Western Europe /ACP 1252) and the DBA, use the UNIX shell (ROMAN8) to work on the database. The NLS_LANG is set to american_america.US7ASCII on the clients and the server.

Note:

This is an INCORRECT setup to explain character set conversion, don't use it in your environment!

A very important point (as mentioned before):

When the client NLS_LANG character set is set to the same value as the database character set, Oracle assumes that the data being sent or received are of the same (correct) encoding, so no conversions or validations may occur for performance reasons. The data is just stored as delivered by the client, bit by bit.

 From Windows insert an ‘é’ (LATIN SMALL LETTER E WITH ACUTE) into a table NLS_TEST containing one column ‘TEST’ of the type 'char'.

As long as you insert into and select from the column on Windows with the WE8MSWIN1252 character set everything runs smoothly. No conversion is done and 8 bits are inserted and read back, even if the character set of the database is defined as 7 bits. This happens because a byte is 8 bits and Oracle is ALWAYS using 8 bits even with a 7 bit character set. In a correct setup the most Significant Bit is just not used and only 7 bits are taken into account.

For one reason or another you need to insert from the UNIX server. When you SELECT from tables where data is inserted by the Windows clients you get a ‘Ò’ (LATIN CAPITAL LETTER O WITH TILDE) instead of the ‘é’. 

If you insert ‘é’ on the UNIX server and you SELECT the row at the Windows client you get an ‘Å’ (LATIN CAPITAL LETTER A WITH RING ABOVE) back.

Bottom line is that you have INCORRECT data in the database. You store the numeric value for ‘é’ of the WE8MSWIN1252 character set in the database but you tell Oracle this is US7ASCII data, so Oracle is NOT converting anything and just stores the numeric value (again: Oracle thinks that the client is giving US7ASCII codes because the NLS_LANG is set to US7ASCII, and the database character set is also US7ASCII -> no conversion done).

 When you SELECT the same column back on the UNIX server, Oracle is again expecting that the value is correct and passes the value to the UNIX terminal without any conversion.

Now the problem is that in the WE8MSWIN1252 character set the ‘é’ has the hexadecimal value 'E9’and in the Roman8 character set the hexadecimal value for ‘é’ is 'C5'.  Oracle just passes the value stored in the database ('E9') to the UNIX terminal, and the UNIX terminal thinks this is the letter ‘?’ because in its (Roman8) character set the hexadecimal value 'E9' is representing the letter ‘Ò’.  So instead of the ‘é’ you get ‘Ò’ on the UNIX terminal screen.

 The inverse (the insert on the UNIX and the SELECT on the Windows client) is the same story, but you get other results.

 The solution is creating the database with a character set that contains ‘é’

(WE8MSWIN1252, WE8ISO89859P1, UTF-8, etc.) and setting the NLS_LANG on the client to WE8MSWIN1252 and on the server to WE8ROMAN8. If you then insert an ‘é’ on both sides, you will get an ‘é’ back regardless of where you SELECT them. Oracle knows then that a hexadecimal value of 'C5’ inserted by the UNIX and an 'E9’ from a WE8MSWIN1252 client are both ‘é’ and inserts ‘é’ into the database (the code in the database depends on the character set you have chosen). 

 You don't have to switch between UNIX, Windows or other OS clients to run into this kind of problem.  The same problem appears if you add Windows clients that are using another character set and have an incorrect NLS_LANG set.

 

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How to setup the NLS_LANG Properly for UNIX

To specify the locale behavior of your client Oracle software, you have to set your NLS_LANG parameter. It sets the language, territory and also the character set of your client. You need to check the locale environment settings to set your NLS_LANG 3rd field (character set) in accordance with it. To do this, use the "locale" command like this:

$ locale

Example of output:

LANG=fr_FR
LC_CTYPE="fr_FR.iso885915@euro"
LC_COLLATE="fr_FR.iso885915@euro"
LC_MONETARY="fr_FR.iso885915@euro"
LC_NUMERIC="fr_FR.iso885915@euro"
LC_TIME="fr_FR.iso885915@euro"
LC_MESSAGES="fr_FR.iso885915@euro"
LC_ALL=fr_FR.iso885915@euro


The output of this command is not exactly the same on all the Unix environments. On some platforms, it can be useful to use the following syntax to have more details about the codepage really used:

$ locale LC_CTYPE | head

                                   
                                     
Example of output
                                    
                                  
                                     
in a HP-UX environment
                                  
                                  
                                     
:
                                  
                                
""
                                  

 
 


                                 
""
                                  

 
 


                                 
"iso885915"
                                  

 
 


                                 
""
                                  

 
 


                                 
                                   
                                     
Example of output in a Linux environment:
                                  
                                  

 
 


                                 
upper;lower;alpha;digit;xdigit;space;print;graph;blank;cntrl;
punct;alnum;

combining;combining_level3
toupper;tolower;totitle
16
1
ISO-8859-15
70
84
1
0
1

In these cases, the NLS_LANG 3rd field should be set to WE8ISO8859P15. On Solaris, AIX, TRU64, this syntax doesn't give interesting complementary information. To find more details about these settings:
On Solaris, look in /usr/lib/locale
On AIX, look in /usr/lib/nls/README
On TRU64, look in /usr/lib/nls
On HP-UX, look in /usr/lib/nls/config
On Linux, look in /usr/share/locale/locale.alias

To set a chosen value for these "locale" settings, it's needed to know which values are available. To know that, use the following syntax:

$ locale -a

Then, when you have chosen a value, for example UTF-8 on Linux, you can set it like this:

$ export LC_ALL=UTF-8

or

% setenv LC_ALL UTF-8

Example of output after the setenv:

$ locale

LANG=fr_FR
LC_CTYPE="UTF-8"
LC_NUMERIC="UTF-8"
LC_TIME="UTF-8"
LC_COLLATE="UTF-8"
LC_MONETARY="UTF-8"
LC_MESSAGES="UTF-8"
LC_PAPER="UTF-8"
LC_NAME="UTF-8"
LC_ADDRESS="UTF-8"
LC_TELEPHONE="UTF-8"
LC_MEASUREMENT="UTF-8"
LC_IDENTIFICATION="UTF-8"
LC_ALL=UTF-8

$ locale LC_CTYPE | head
upper;lower;alpha;digit;xdigit;space;print;

graph;blank;cntrl;punct;alnum;combining;combining_level3
toupper;tolower;totitle
16
6
UTF-8
70
84
1
0
1

In this case, the 3rd field (character set) of NLS_LANG should be set to UTF8.

% setenv NLS_LANG American_America.UTF8

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How to setup the NLS_LANG Properly for Windows and DOS Code Pages

On Windows systems, the encoding scheme (character set) is specified by a code page. Code pages are defined to support specific languages or groups of languages, which share common writing systems. From Oracle point of view the terms code page and character set mean the same. Note that in non Chinese-Japanese-Korean environments, the Windows GUI and DOS command prompt do not use the same code page.

As a result Windows uses 2 different character sets for the ANSI (sqlplusw.exe) and the OEM (dos box - sqlplus.exe) environments.

Where to set the NLS_LANG in Windows

In the Registry:

On Windows systems, you should make sure that you have set an NLS_LANG registry subkey for each of your Oracle Homes:

You can easily modify this subkey with the Windows Registry Editor:

Start -> Run...

Type "regedit", and click "ok"

Edit the following registry entry:

For Oracle version 7:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\ORACLE

For Oracle Database versions 8, 8i and 9i:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\ORACLE\HOMEx\

where "x" is the unique number identifying the Oracle home.

HOME0 is the first installation

For Oracle Database 10g:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\ORACLE\KEY_<oracle_home_name>

There you have an entry with name NLS_LANG

When starting an Oracle tools, like SQL*Plusw, it will read the content of the oracle.key file located in the same directory to determine which registry tree will be used, therefore which NLS_LANG subkey will be used.

Note:

Some people are confused by finding a NLS_LANG set to "NA" in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\ORACLE when no version 7 was installed. This is used for backwards compatibility, and can be ignored.

As a System or User Environment Variable, in System properties:

Although the Registry is the primary repository for settings on Windows, it is not the only place where parameters can be set. Even if not at all recommended, you can set the NLS_LANG as a System or User Environment Variable in the System properties.

This setting will be used for ALL Oracle homes.

To check and modify them:

Right-click the 'My Computericon -> 'Properties'

Select the 'Advanced Tab -> Click on 'Environment Variables'

The 'User Variables list contains the settings for the specific OS user currently logged on and the 'System variables system-wide variables for all users.

Since these environment variables take precedence over the parameters already set in your Registry, you should not set Oracle parameters at this location unless you have a very good reason.

As an Environment variable defined in the command prompt:

Before using an Oracle command line tool you need to MANUALLY SET the NLS_LANG parameter. In an MS-DOS command prompt, use the set command, for example:

C:\> set NLS_LANG=american_america.WE8PC850

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Determine your Windows ANSI code page

Now that you know what the NLS_LANG is currently set to you can check to see if it properly agrees with the current ANSI code page. The ACP (ANSI Code Page) is defined by the "default locale" setting of Windows, so if you have a UK Windows 2000 client and you want to input Cyrillic (Russian) you need to change the ACP (by changing the "default locale") in order to be able to input Russian.

You'll find its value in the registry:

Start -> Run...

Type "regedit", and click "ok"

Browse the following registry entry:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\NLS\CodePage\

There you have (all the way down) an entry with as name ACP. The value of ACP is your current GUI Codepage, for the mapping to the Oracle name. Since there are many registry entries with very similar names, please make sure that you are looking at the right place in the registry.

Additionally, the following URL provides a list of the default code pages for all Windows versions:

http://www.microsoft.com/globaldev/reference/ (under the REFERENCE tab on the left of the page)

OEM = the command line codepage, ANSI = the GUI codepage

Note that the Honk Kong HKSCS is listed here: http://www.microsoft.com/hk/hkscs/

Find the correspondent Oracle client character set:

Find the Oracle client character set in the table below based on the ACP you found above. Note that there is only ONE CORRECT value for a given ACP.

ANSI CodePage (ACP)

Oracle Client character set (3rd part of NLS_LANG)

1250

EE8MSWIN1250

1251

CL8MSWIN1251

1252

WE8MSWIN1252

1253

EL8MSWIN1253

1254

TR8MSWIN1254

1255

IW8MSWIN1255

1256

AR8MSWIN1256

1257

BLT8MSWIN1257

1258

VN8MSWIN1258

874

TH8TISASCII

932

JA16SJIS

936

ZHS16GBK

949

KO16MSWIN949

950

ZHT16MSWIN950 - except for Hong Kong (see below)

This is the character set used by the GUI SQL*Plus (sqlplusW.exe/ plus80W.exe / plus33W.exe ) that you start through the Windows start menu. Please note the difference between the GUI SQL*Plus and the "DOS mode" SQL*Plus.

You can use UTF8 as Oracle client character set (=NLS_LANG) on Windows NT, 2000 and XP but you will be limited to use only client programs that explicitly support this configuration. This is because the user interface of Win32 is not UTF8, therefore the client program have to perform explicit conversions between UTF8 (used on Oracle side) and UTF16 (used on Win32 side).

Set it in your Registry:

Use the Windows Registry Editor to set up the NLS_LANG in your Oracle Home with the value you have just found above.

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The correct NLS_LANG for Windows Command Line Operations

MS-DOS mode uses, with a few exceptions like CJK, (Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese) a different code page (called OEM code page) than Windows GUI (ANSI code page). Meaning that before using an Oracle command line tool such as SQL*Plus (sqlplus.exe/ plus80.exe / plus33.exe ) en svrmgrl in a command prompt then you need to MANUALLY SET the NLS_LANG parameter as an environment variable with the set DOS command BEFORE using the tool.

For Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese, the MS-DOS OEM code page (CJK) is identical to the ANSI code page meaning that, in this particular case, there is no need to set the NLS_LANG parameter in MS-DOS mode.

In all other cases, you need to set it in order to overwrite the NLS_LANG registry key already matching the ANSI code page. The new "MS-DOS dedicated" NLS_LANG needs to match the MS-DOS OEM code page that could be retrieved by typing chcp in a Command Prompt:

C:\> chcp

Active code page: 437

C:\> set NLS_LANG=american_america.US8PC437

If the NLS_LANG parameter for the MS-DOS mode session is not set appropriately, error messages and data can be corrupted due to incorrect character set conversion.

Use the following list to find the Oracle character set that fits to your MS-DOS code page in use on your locale system:

MS-DOS codepage

Oracle Client character set (3rd part of NLS_LANG)

437

US8PC437

737

EL8PC737

850

WE8PC850

852

EE8PC852

857

TR8PC857

858

WE8PC858

861

IS8PC861

862

IW8PC1507

865

N8PC865

866

RU8PC866

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List of common NLS_LANG settings used in the Windows Registry:

Note: this is the correct setting for the GUI SQL*Plus version, (sqlplusW.exe/ plus80W.exe / plus33W.exe )

if you are testing with "special" characters please DO use the GUI and not the "DOS box" sqlplus.exe !

Operating System Locale

NLS_LANG Value

Arabic (U.A.E.)

ARABIC_UNITED ARAB EMIRATES.AR8MSWIN1256

Bulgarian

BULGARIAN_BULGARIA.CL8MSWIN1251

Catalan

CATALAN_CATALONIA.WE8MSWIN1252

Chinese (PRC)

SIMPLIFIED CHINESE_CHINA.ZHS16GBK

Chinese (Taiwan)

TRADITIONAL CHINESE_TAIWAN.ZHT16MSWIN950

Chinese (Hong Kong HKCS)

TRADITIONAL CHINESE_HONG KONG.ZHT16HKSCS

Chinese (Hong Kong HKCS2001)

TRADITIONAL CHINESE_HONG KONG.ZHT16HKSCS2001 (new in 10gR1)

Croatian

CROATIAN_CROATIA.EE8MSWIN1250

Czech

CZECH_CZECH REPUBLIC.EE8MSWIN1250

Danish

DANISH_DENMARK.WE8MSWIN1252

Dutch (Netherlands)

DUTCH_THE NETHERLANDS.WE8MSWIN1252

Dutch (Belgium)

DUTCH_BELGIUM.WE8MSWIN1252

English (United Kingdom)

ENGLISH_UNITED KINGDOM.WE8MSWIN1252

English (United States)

AMERICAN_AMERICA.WE8MSWIN1252

Estonian

ESTONIAN_ESTONIA.BLT8MSWIN1257

Finnish

FINNISH_FINLAND.WE8MSWIN1252

French (Canada)

CANADIAN FRENCH_CANADA.WE8MSWIN1252

French (France)

FRENCH_FRANCE.WE8MSWIN1252

German (Germany)

GERMAN_GERMANY.WE8MSWIN1252

Greek

GREEK_GREECE.EL8MSWIN1253

Hebrew

HEBREW_ISRAEL.IW8MSWIN1255

Hungarian

HUNGARIAN_HUNGARY.EE8MSWIN1250

Icelandic

ICELANDIC_ICELAND.WE8MSWIN1252

Indonesian

INDONESIAN_INDONESIA.WE8MSWIN1252

Italian (Italy)

ITALIAN_ITALY.WE8MSWIN1252

Japanese

JAPANESE_JAPAN.JA16SJIS

Korean

KOREAN_KOREA.KO16MSWIN949

Latvian

LATVIAN_LATVIA.BLT8MSWIN1257

Lithuanian

LITHUANIAN_LITHUANIA.BLT8MSWIN1257

Norwegian

NORWEGIAN_NORWAY.WE8MSWIN1252

Polish

POLISH_POLAND.EE8MSWIN1250

Portuguese (Brazil)

BRAZILIAN PORTUGUESE_BRAZIL.WE8MSWIN1252

Portuguese (Portugal)

PORTUGUESE_PORTUGAL.WE8MSWIN1252

Romanian

ROMANIAN_ROMANIA.EE8MSWIN1250

Russian

RUSSIAN_CIS.CL8MSWIN1251

Slovak

SLOVAK_SLOVAKIA.EE8MSWIN1250

Spanish (Spain)

SPANISH_SPAIN.WE8MSWIN1252

Swedish

SWEDISH_SWEDEN.WE8MSWIN1252

Thai

THAI_THAILAND.TH8TISASCII

Spanish (Mexico)

MEXICAN SPANISH_MEXICO.WE8MSWIN1252

Spanish (Venezuela)

LATIN AMERICAN SPANISH_VENEZUELA.WE8MSWIN1252

Turkish

TURKISH_TURKEY.TR8MSWIN1254

Ukrainian

UKRAINIAN_UKRAINE.CL8MSWIN1251

Vietnamese

VIETNAMESE_VIETNAM.VN8MSWIN1258

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List of common NLS_LANG settings used in the Command Prompt (DOS box)

Note: this is the correct setting for the DOS BOX SQL*Plus version, (sqlplus.exe/ plus80.exe / plus33.exe )

Operating System Locale

Oracle Client character set (3rd part of NLS_LANG)

Arabic

AR8ASMO8X

Catalan

WE8PC850

Chinese (PRC)

ZHS16GBK

Chinese (Taiwan)

ZHT16MSWIN950

Czech

EE8PC852

Danish

WE8PC850

Dutch

WE8PC850

English (United Kingdom)

WE8PC850

English (United States)

US8PC437

Finnish

WE8PC850

French

WE8PC850

German

WE8PC850

Greek

EL8PC737

Hebrew

IW8PC1507

Hungarian

EE8PC852

Italian

WE8PC850

Japanese

JA16SJIS

Korean

KO16MSWIN949

Norwegian

WE8PC850

Polish

EE8PC852

Portuguese

WE8PC850

Romanian

EE8PC852

Russian

RU8PC866

Slovak

EE8PC852

Slovenian

EE8PC852

Spanish

WE8PC850

Swedish

WE8PC850

Turkish

TR8PC857

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Other Frequently asked questions regarding NLS_LANG

What does the LANGUAGE component of the NLS_LANG parameter control?

The language component of the NLS_LANG parameter controls the operation of a subset of globalization support features. It specifies conventions such as the language used for Oracle messages, sorting, day names, and month names. Each supported language has a unique name; for example, AMERICAN , FRENCH , or GERMAN . The language argument specifies default values for the territory and character set arguments. If the language is not specified, then the value defaults to AMERICAN .

What does the TERRITORY component of the NLS_LANG parameter control?

The territory component of the NLS_LANG parameter controls the operation of a subset of globalization support features. It specifies conventions such as the default date, monetary, and numeric formats. Each supported territory has a unique name; for example, AMERICA , FRANCE , or CANADA . If the territory is not specified, then the value is derived from the language value.

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How to see what's really stored in the database?

To find the real numeric value for a character stored in the database use the dump command:

The syntax of the function call is:

DUMP( <value> [, <format> [, <offset> [, <length> ] ] ] )

where:

value - is the value to be displayed

format - is a number which describes the format in which bytes of the value are to be displayed: 8 - means octal, 10 - means decimal, 16 - means hexadecimal; other values between 0 and 16 mean decimal; values greater then 16 are a little confusing and mean: print bytes as ASCII characters if they correspond to printable ASCII codes, print them as "^x" if they correspond to ASCII control codes and print them in hexadecimal otherwise; adding 1000 to the format number will add character set information for the character data type values to the return value offset - is the offset of the first byte of the value to display; negative values mean counting from the end length - is the number of bytes to display. So for example,

SQL> SELECT DUMP(col,1016)FROM table;

Typ=1 Len=39 CharacterSet=UTF8: 227,131,143,227,131,170

returns the value of a column consisting of 3 Japanese characters in UTF8 encoding . For example the 1st char is 227(*255)+131. You will probably need to convert this to UCS2 to verify the codepoint value with the Unicode Standard codepage.

Where is the Character Conversion Done?

Normally conversion is done at client side for performance reasons. This is true from Version 8.0.4 onwards. If the database is using a character set not known by the client then the conversion is done at server side. This is true from Version 8.1.6 onwards.

Windows SQL*Plus is not showing all my extended characters?

You see black squares instead of the characters you probably don’t have the right font defined for your codepage. A font is a collection of glyphs (from "hieroglyphs") that share common appearance (typeface, character size). A font is used by the operating system to convert a numeric value into a graphical representation on screen. A font does not necessarily contain a graphical representation for all numeric values defined in the code page you are using. That's why you sometimes get black squares on the screen if you change fonts and the new font has no representation for a certain symbol.

The Windows "Character Set Map" utility can be used to see which glyphs are parts of a certain font.

On Windows 2000 and XP:

Start -> Run...

Type "charmap", and click "ok".

I get a question mark or inverted question mark when selecting back just inserted characters?

When characters are converted between the client and the database character set, or vice versa, the character should exist in both. If it does not exist in the character set being converted to (the destination) then a replacement character is used. Some character sets have specific replacement characters defined when translating from other specific character sets but where this is not done a default replacement character, such as a ?, is used. Conversion from a replacement character back to the original character is not possible.

Is iSQL*Plus the only UTF8/Unicode enabled client we support?

On Windows OS, yes, On Unix OS's, no. All the database utilties, including Import, Export, SQL*Loader, SQL*Plus, can act as a UTF-8 client if the OS locale is UTF-8 (e.g., en_US.UTF-8 on Linux) and NLS_LANG character set is set to UTF8 or AL32UTF8.

How to check the code points managed by a UNIX Operating System?
To know which code point is generated for a character in a Unix Environment, you can use the "od" command:

$ echo "" | od -xc

You can also check the character corresponding to a code point using the "echo" command like this:

for Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, TRU64:

$echo '\0351'


for Linux:

$echo -e '\0351'


You can use Locale Builder or a printed code page (see links below) to verify that your native code page and NLS_LANG setting properly correspond.   If there is any ambiguity then use the command above to get the values for more than one character. For printed code page:

http://www.unicode.org
http://www.iso.org
http://czyborra.com/charsets/iso8859.html

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What about command line tools like SQL*Loader, Import, Export, utilities?

Typically the NLS_LANG needs to match the MS-DOS OEM code page that could be retrieved by typing chcp in a Command Prompt:

C:\> chcp

Active code page: 437

C:\> set NLS_LANG=american_america.US8PC437

For tools like SQL*Loader you can temporarily change the NLS_LANG to the character set of the FILE you are loading. An alternative to changing NLS_LANG is to specify the character set of the data in the datafile using the characterset keyword in the .ctl file. In that case, SQL*Loader will interpret the data in the datafile as that character set regardless of the client character set setting of NLS_LANG. Here is an example .ctl file for utf16. This example ships in the demo area:

-- Copyright (c) 2001 by Oracle Corporation
--   NAME
--     ulcase11.ctl - Load Data in the Unicode Character Set UTF-16
--   DESCRIPTION
--     Loads data in the Unicode character set UTF-16. The data is in little
--     Endean byte order. This means that depending on whether SQL*Loader is
--     running on a little Endean or a big Endean system, it will have to
--     byte swap the UTF-16 character data as necessary. This load uses
--     character length semantics, the default for the character set UTF-16.
--
--     This case study is modeled after case study 3 (ulcase3), which loads
--     variable length delimited (terminated and enclosed) data.
--
--   RETURNS
--
--   NOTES
--     None
--   MODIFIED   (MM/DD/YY)
--    rpfau     02/06/01  - Merged rpfau_sqlldr_add_case_study_11
--    rpfau     01/30/01 -  Creation
--

LOAD DATA
CHARACTERSET utf16
BYTEORDER little
INFILE ulcase11.dat
REPLACE

INTO TABLE EMP
FIELDS TERMINATED BY X'002c' OPTIONALLY ENCLOSED BY X'0022'
(empno integer external (5), ename, job, mgr,
 hiredate DATE(20) "DD-Month-YYYY",
 sal, comm,
 deptno   CHAR(5) TERMINATED BY ":",
 projno,
 loadseq  SEQUENCE(MAX,1) )

In Oracle9i the Export utility always exports user data, including Unicode data, in the character set of the database. The Import utility automatically converts the data to the character set of the target database.

In Oracle8i the Export utility exports user data converting them from the database character set to the character set of the NLS_LANG of the Export session. The Import utility first converts the data to the character set of the NLS_LANG of the Import session and then converts them to the character set of the target database. Care must be taken that the character set of the NLS_LANG for Export and Import sessions contain all characters to be migrated. This character set is usually chosen to be either the source database or the target database character set and it is usually the same for both Export and Import sessions. This choice is recommended especially with multibyte character sets, which pose some restrictions on export files. The

Oracle8i conversions to and from the NLS_LANG character set happen in Oracle9i for DDL statements contained in the Export file.

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What about database links?

The NLS_LANG on the server (or client) has no influence on character set conversion through a database link. Oracle will do the conversion from the character set of the source database to the character set of the target database (or reverse).

What about Multiple Homes on Windows?

There is nothing special with NLS_LANG and the multiple homes on Windows. The parameter taken into account is the one specified in the ORACLE_HOME registry key used by the executable. If the NLS_LANG is set in the environment, it takes precedence over the value in the registry and is used for ALL Oracle_Homes on the server/client.

The NLS_LANG can be found in these registry keys:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\ORACLE

or

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\ORACLE\HOMEx

Is there an Oracle Unicode Client on Windows?

On Windows there are two kinds of tools / applications:

1) A fully Unicode enabled applications which accepts Unicode codepoints and which can render them. It's the application that needs to deal with the Unicode. Windows provides the Unicode API but the GUI system itself is NOT Unicode "by nature".

A fully Unicode application can only show one glyph for a given Unicode code point. So there is NO confusion possible here, this application will need to use a full Unicode font. If you have a full Unicode application, then you need to set the NLS_LANG to UTF8.

Note that there are currently not many applications like this and if not explicitly stated by the vendor it's most likely an ANSI application. So don’t set the NLS_LANG to UTF8 if you are not sure!

The only Unicode capable client that is included in the Oracle database is iSQL*Plus.

2) Standard ANSI application (like sqlplusw.exe) cannot use Unicode code points. So the Unicode code point stored in the database needs to be CONVERTED to an ANSI code point based on the correct setting of the NLS_LANG. This allows Oracle to map the Unicode code point to the character set of the client. If the Unicode code point does not have a mapping to the character set of the client then a replacement character is used.

What is a Character set or Code Page?

A character set is just an agreement on what numeric value a symbol has. A computer does not know ‘A’ or ‘B ', it only knows the (binary) numeric value for that symbol, defined in the character set used by its Operating System (OS) or in hardware (firmware) for terminals. A computer can only manipulate numbers, which is why there is a need for character sets. An example is 'ASCII', an old 7 bit character set, 'ROMAN8’ a 8 bit character set on UNIX or 'UTF8’ a multibyte character set.

A code page is the name for the Windows/DOS encoding schemes, for Oracle NLS you can consider it the same as a character set. You also have to distinguish between a FONT and a character set/codepage. A font is used by the OS to convert a numeric value into a graphical 'print’ on screen.  The Wingdings Font on Windows is the best example of a font where an ‘A’ is NOT shown as an ‘A’ on screen, but for the OS the numeric value represents an ‘A‘. So you don't SEE it as an ‘A’, but for Windows it's an ‘A’ and will be saved (or used) as an ‘A’.

To better understand the explanation above, just open MS Word, choose the Wingdings Font, type your name (you will see symbols) and save this as html, if you open the html file with Notepad you will see that in the <style> section the fonts are declared and lower in the <body> section you will find your name in plain text but with style='font-family: Wingdings’ attribute. If you open it in Internet Explorer or Netscape, you will again see the Wingdings symbols. It's the presentation that changes, not the data itself.

 It's also possible that you don't see with a particular font, all the symbols defined in the codepage you are using, just because the creator of the FONT did not include a graphical representation for all the symbols in that font. That's why you sometimes get black squares on the screen if you change fonts. On Windows you can use the 'Character Map’ tool to see all the symbols defined in a font.

 

Why Are There Different Character sets?

Two main reasons:

Historically vendors have defined different 'character sets’ for their hardware and software, mainly because there were no official standards.

New character sets have been defined to support new languages. With an 8 bit character set, you are limited in the number of symbols you can support so there are different character sets for different written languages.

What is the difference between 7 bit, 8 bit and Unicode Character sets?

A 7 bit character set only knows 128 symbols (2^7)

An 8 bit character set knows 256 symbols (2^8)

Unicode (UTF-8) is a multibyte character set. Unicode has the capability to define over a million characters. For more information on Unicode see the white paper Oracle Unicode Database Support .

How to choose the right database character set?

A basic consideration for choosing a character set is to make sure it can handle any language that needs to be supported immediately and in the indeterminate future. Another overlooked consideration is to think about what applications and technologies you may want to utilize or interact with the database. Use locale builder (from Oracle Database 9i onwards) to view what characters are defined for a particular Oracle character set.

Choosing Unicode as the database character set ensures a strong foundation for whatever is built into and on top of the database. Oracle recommends using Unicode for all new system deployment. Migrating legacy systems to Unicode is also recommended. Deploying your systems today in Unicode offers many advantages in usability, compatibility, and extensibility. Oracle's comprehensive support allows you to deploy high-performing systems faster and more easily while leveraging the true power of Unicode. Even if you don't need to support multilingual data today or have any requirement for Unicode, it is still likely to be the best choice for a new system in the long run and will ultimately save you time and money and give you competitive advantages.

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