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Original author(s)Hewlett-Packard
Developer(s)Various open-source and commercial developers
Operating systemUnix, Unix-like, Microsoft Windows, IBM i
LicenseLGPL, GPL

In Unix and 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).


Most Linux distributions provide an implementation, either from the GNU Standard C Library (included since version 2.1, February 1999), or the more traditional GNU libiconv, for systems based on other Standard C Libraries.

The iconv function[6] on both is licensed as LGPL, so it is linkable with closed source applications.

Unlike the libraries, the iconv utility is licensed under GPL in both implementations.[7] The GNU libiconv implementation is portable, and can be used on various UNIX-like and non-UNIX systems. Version 0.3 dates from December 1999.

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

Most BSD systems use NetBSD's implementation, first appeared in December 2004.


Currently, over a hundred different character encodings are supported.[4]


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.

The iconv command has also been ported to the IBM i operating system.[11]


stdin can be converted from ISO-8859-1 to current locale and output to stdout using:[12]

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> -o <outfile>

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "R: Convert Character Vector between Encodings". astrostatistics.psu.edu. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  2. ^ "iconv". pubs.opengroup.org. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  3. ^ "iconv". www.opengroup.org. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b "libiconv - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation (FSF)". www.gnu.org. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  5. ^ "iconv(3C)". docstore.mik.ua. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  6. ^ "glibc: iconv/iconv.c". Retrieved 30 November 2016.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "glibc: iconv/iconv_prog.c". Retrieved 30 November 2016.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Cygwin Package Search: libiconv". Archived from the original on 30 November 2016. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  9. ^ "LibIconv for Windows". gnuwin32.sourceforge.net. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  10. ^ "win32-iconv". GitHub. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  11. ^ IBM. "IBM System i Version 7.2 Programming Qshell" (PDF). Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  12. ^ "IBM Knowledge Center". www-01.ibm.com. Retrieved 21 April 2018.

External links[edit]