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A binary-to-text encoding is encoding of data in plain text. More precisely, it is an encoding of binary data in a sequence of printable characters. These encodings are necessary for transmission of data when the channel does not allow binary data such as email or NNTP or is not 8-bit clean. The ASCII text-encoding standard uses unique values 0— to represent the alphabetic, numeric, and punctuation characters commonly used in English , plus a selection of control codes which do not represent printable characters.
In contrast, most computers store data in memory organized in eight-bit bytes. Files that contain machine-executable code and non-textual data typically contain all possible eight-bit byte values. Many computer programs came to rely on this distinction between seven-bit text and eight-bit binary data, and would not function properly if non-ASCII characters appeared in data that was expected to include only ASCII text.
For example, if the value of the eighth bit is not preserved, the program might interpret a byte value above as a flag telling it to perform some function. It is often desirable, however, to be able to send non-textual data through text-based systems, such as when one might attach an image file to an e-mail message.
To accomplish this, the data is encoded in some way, such that eight-bit data is encoded into seven-bit ASCII characters generally using only alphanumeric and punctuation characters—the ASCII printable characters.
Upon safe arrival at its destination, it is then decoded back to its eight-bit form. This process is referred to as binary to text encoding. Binary-to-text encoding methods are also used as a mechanism for encoding plain text. By using a binary-to-text encoding on messages that are already plain text, then decoding on the other end, one can make such systems appear to be completely transparent.
The table below compares the most used forms of binary-to-text encodings. The efficiency listed is the ratio between number of bits in the input and the number of bits in the encoded output.
A series of small English words is easier for humans to read, remember, and type in than decimal or other binary-to-text encoding systems. Some of these encoding quoted-printable and percent encoding are based on a set of allowed characters and a single escape character. The allowed characters are left unchanged, while all other characters are converted into a string starting with the escape character.
This kind of conversion allows the resulting text to be almost readable, in that letters and digits are part of the allowed characters, and are therefore left as they are in the encoded text. Some other encodings base64 , uuencoding are based on mapping all possible sequences of six bits into different printable characters. A given sequence of bytes is translated by viewing it as stream of bits, breaking this stream in chunks of six bits and generating the sequence of corresponding characters.
The different encodings differ in the mapping between sequences of bits and characters and in how the resulting text is formatted. Some encodings the original version of BinHex and the recommended encoding for CipherSaber use four bits instead of six, mapping all possible sequences of 4 bits onto the 16 standard hexadecimal digits.
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Info-Kermit Digest Mailing list. Kermit Project, Columbia University. Retrieved 3 March Printable Encodings for Binary Files". Retrieved 1 March Retrieved from " https: Binary-to-text encoding formats Computer file formats Character encoding. Articles that may contain original research from April All articles that may contain original research Articles needing additional references from December All articles needing additional references Articles with multiple maintenance issues. Views Read Edit View history.
Similar to Base64, but modified to avoid both non-alphanumeric characters and letters which might look ambiguous when printed. C , Python Python 2. Developed by Columbia University for its Kermit protocol . See Quoted-printable and Base C , Python , probably many others. Perl , C , probably many others. C,  Python ,