How to make the python interpreter correctly handle non-ASCII characters in string operations?


I have a string that looks like so:

6 918 417 712

The clear cut way to trim this string (as I understand Python) is simply to say the string is in a variable called s, we get:

s.replace('Â ', '')

That should do the trick. But of course it complains that the non-ASCII character '\xc2' in file is not encoded.

I never quite could understand how to switch between different encodings.

Here's the code, it really is just the same as above, but now it's in context. The file is saved as UTF-8 in notepad and has the following header:

# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-

The code:

f = urllib.urlopen(url)

soup = BeautifulSoup(f)

s = soup.find('div', {'id':'main_count'})

#making a print 's' here goes well. it shows 6Â 918Â 417Â 712

s.replace('Â ','')


It gets no further than s.replace...

11/20/2013 8:37:58 AM

Accepted Answer

Python 2 uses ascii as the default encoding for source files, which means you must specify another encoding at the top of the file to use non-ascii unicode characters in literals. Python 3 uses utf-8 as the default encoding for source files, so this is less of an issue.


To enable utf-8 source encoding, this would go in one of the top two lines:

# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-

The above is in the docs, but this also works:

# coding: utf-8

Additional considerations:

  • The source file must be saved using the correct encoding in your text editor as well.

  • In Python 2, the unicode literal must have a u before it, as in s.replace(u"Â ", u"") But in Python 3, just use quotes. In Python 2, you can from __future__ import unicode_literals to obtain the Python 3 behavior, but be aware this affects the entire current module.

  • s.replace(u"Â ", u"") will also fail if s is not a unicode string.

  • string.replace returns a new string and does not edit in place, so make sure you're using the return value as well

8/2/2014 5:09:06 PM

def removeNonAscii(s): return "".join(filter(lambda x: ord(x)<128, s))

edit: my first impulse is always to use a filter, but the generator expression is more memory efficient (and shorter)...

def removeNonAscii(s): return "".join(i for i in s if ord(i)<128)

Keep in mind that this is guaranteed to work with UTF-8 encoding (because all bytes in multi-byte characters have the highest bit set to 1).

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