Character encoding

There are three hard problems in computer science:
1) Converting from PDF,
2) Converting to PDF, and
3) O̳̳̳̳̳̳̳̳̳̳̳̳̳̳̳̳̳Ҙ҉҉҉ʹʹ҉ʹ̨̨̨̨̨̨̨̨̃༃༃O̳̳̳̳̳̳̳̳̳̳̳̳̳̳̳̳̳Ҙ҉҉҉ʹʹ҉ʹ̨̨̨̨̨̨̨̨̃༃༃ʹʹ҉ʹ̨̨̨̨̨̨̨̨̃༃༃

Marseille Folog

In most circumstances, pikepdf performs appropriate encodings and decodings on its own, or returns pikepdf.String if it is not clear whether to present data as a string or binary data.

str(pikepdf.String) is performed by inspecting the binary data. If the binary data begins with a UTF-16 byte order mark, then the data is interpreted as UTF-16 and returned as a Python str. Otherwise, the data is returned as a Python str, if the binary data will be interpreted as PDFDocEncoding and decoded to str. Again, in most cases this is correct behavior and will operate transparently.

Some functions are available in circumstances where it is necessary to force a particular conversion.


The PDF specification defines PDFDocEncoding, a character encoding used only in PDFs. This encoding matches ASCII for code points 32 through 126 (0x20 to 0x7e). At all other code points, it is not ASCII and cannot be treated as equivalent. If you look at a PDF in a binary file viewer (hex editor), a string surrounded by parentheses such as (Hello World) is usually using PDFDocEncoding.

When pikepdf is imported, it automatically registers "pdfdoc" as a codec with the standard library, so that it may be used in string and byte conversions.

"•".encode('pdfdoc') == b'\x81'

Other Python PDF libraries may register their own pdfdoc codecs. Unfortunately, the order of imports will determine which codec “wins” and gets mapped to the 'pdfdoc' string. Fortunately, these implementations should be quite compatible with each other anyway since they do the same things.

pikepdf also registers 'pdfdoc_pikepdf', if you want to ensure use of pikepdf’s codec, i.e. s.encode('pdfdoc_pikepdf').

Changed in version 5.0.0: Some issues with the conversion of obscure characters in PDFDocEncoding were fixed. Older versions of pikepdf may not convert PDFDocEncoding in all cases.

Other codecs

Two other codecs are commonly used in PDFs, but they are already part of the standard library.

WinAnsiEncoding is identical Windows Code Page 1252, and may be converted using the "cp1252" codec.

MacRomanEncoding may be converted using the "macroman" codec.