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Enable Unicode input and display when running Python from Windows console.

Project description

A Python package to enable Unicode input and display when running Python from Windows console.

General information

When running Python in the standard console on Windows, there are several problems when one tries to enter or display Unicode characters. The relevant issue is This package solves some of them.

  • First, when you want to display Unicode characters in Windows console, you have to select a font able to display them. This has nothing to do with Python, but is included here for completeness.

  • The standard stream objects (sys.stdin, sys.stdout, sys.stderr) are not capable of reading and displaying Unicode characters in Windows console. This has nothing to do with encoding, since even sys.stdin.buffer.raw.readline() returns b"?\n" when entering α and there is no encoding under which sys.stdout.buffer.raw.write displays α.

    The streams module provides alternative streams objects, which call ReadConsoleW and WriteConsoleW functions to interact with Windows console. The function streams.enable installs these streams instead of original ones and streams.disable restores the original ones. After replacing the stream objects, also using print with a string containing Unicode characters and displaying Unicode characters in the interactive loop works. For input, see below.

  • Python interactive loop doesn’t use sys.stdin to read input so fixing it doesn’t help. Also the input function may or may not use sys.stdin depending on whether sys.stdin and sys.stdout have the standard filenos. See for more information.

    One way to solve this problem is to provide custom REPL which uses the streams. Such REPL is implemented in console module and based on stdlib module code. The functions console.enable and console.disable maintain (de)activation of our loop.

    Since there is no hook to run our interactive loop instead of the standard one, we have to wrap the execution of any Python script so our loop is run at the right place. The logic for this is contained in runner module and a helper script, which is located outside of out package for practical reasons.

    Another and more practical solution is to install a custom readline hook. Readline hook is a function which is used to read a single line interactively by Python REPL. It may also be used by input function under certain conditions (see above). On Linux, this hook is usually set to GNU readline function, which provides features like autocompletion, history,…

    The module readline_hook provides our custom readline hook, which uses sys.stdin to get the input and is (de)activated by functions readline_hook.enable, readline_hook.disable. There also exists package pyreadline (, which implements GNU readline features on Windows. It provides its own readline hook, which actually supports Unicode input. The problem is, that the input is then encoded using sys.stdout.encoding, which may not be capable of encoding all the characters. Our custom stream objects solve the problem, so the readline hook of pyreadline can be used as well, and readline_hook.enable tries to use it if possible as default to preserve the input features of pyreadline.

  • Readline hook can be called from two places – from the REPL and from input function. In the first case the prompt is encoded using sys.stdin.encoding, but in the second case sys.stdout.encoding is used. So we need these two encodings be equal.

  • Python tokenizer, which is used when parsing the input from REPL, cannot handle UTF-16 or generally any encoding containing null bytes. Because UTF-16-LE is the encoding of Unicode used by Windows, we have to additionally wrap our text stream objects (io.TextIOWrapper with encoding UTF-16-LE over our raw console stream objects) with helper text io objects. This is done automatically by streams.enable when needed and can be configured.

win_unicode_console package was tested on Python 3.4 and interacts well with pyreadline, IPython, and colorama packages.


Install the package from PyPI via pip install win-unicode-console (recommended) or download the archive and install it from the archive (e.g. pip install or install the package manually by placing directory win_unicode_console and module from the archive to site-packages directory of your Python installation.


Recommened usage is just calling win_unicode_console.enable() whenever the fixes should be applied and win_unicode_console.disable() to revert all the changes. By default, custom stream objects are installed as well as custom readline hook. In the case that pyreadline is available, its readline hook is reused. For customization, see the sources. The logic should be clear.

Calling win_unicode_console.enable() may be done automatically on Python startup by putting the command to your sitecustomize or usercustomize script. See for more information.

To run a Python script with our custom REPL (which is not needed with the approach above), type py -i -m run instead of py -i You can also put "C:\Windows\py.exe" -i -m rum "%1" %* to the registry in order to run .py files interactivelly and using custom REPL. To run the custom REPL when plain interactive console is run (just ‘py’) add environment variable PYTHONSTARTUP pointing to site-packages\

Backward incompatibility

From version 0.3, the custom stream objects have the standard filenos, so calling input doesn’t handle Unicode without custom readline hook.


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