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In Unix-like operating systems, iconv (an abbreviation of internationalization conversion)[1] is a command-line program[2] and a standardized application programming interface (API)[3] used to convert between different character encodings. "It can convert from any of these encodings to any other, through Unicode conversion."[4]


Initially appearing on the HP-UX operating system,[5]iconv() as well as the utility was standardized within XPG4 and is part of the Single UNIX Specification (SUS).


All recent Linux distributions contain a free implementation of iconv utility and iconv() function as part of the GNU C Library which is the C library for current Linux systems. The library's iconv() function[6] as well as the utility[7] is licensed as LGPL, so it is linkable with closed source applications. To use the library, the GNU glibc locales need to be installed, which are provided as a separate package (usually named glibc-locale)[citation needed] normally installed by default.

GNU also provides a separate iconv implementation in its "libiconv" package. Unlike the glibc implementation, the utility in "libiconv" is licensed under GPL, so software linking to it must be GPL compatible,[4] this separate implementation can be seen in non-glibc platforms that still need iconv functionalities such as Cygwin[8] and GnuWin32.[9]

The uconv utility from International Components for Unicode provides an iconv-compatible command-line syntax for transcoding.


Under Microsoft Windows, the iconv library and the utility is provided by GNU's libiconv found in Cygwin[8] and GnuWin32[9] environments; there is also a "purely Win32" implementation called "win-iconv" that uses Windows' built-in routines for conversion.[10]

The iconv function is also available for many programming languages.


stdin can be converted from ISO-8859-1 to current locale and output to stdout using:[11]

iconv -f iso-8859-1

An input file infile can be converted from ISO-8859-1 to UTF-8 and output to output file outfile using:

iconv -f iso-8859-1 -t utf-8 <infile >outfile

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