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33.3 Selecting a Representation

Sometimes it is useful to examine an existing buffer or string as multibyte when it was unibyte, or vice versa.

— Function: set-buffer-multibyte multibyte

Set the representation type of the current buffer. If multibyte is non-nil, the buffer becomes multibyte. If multibyte is nil, the buffer becomes unibyte.

This function leaves the buffer contents unchanged when viewed as a sequence of bytes. As a consequence, it can change the contents viewed as characters; for instance, a sequence of three bytes which is treated as one character in multibyte representation will count as three characters in unibyte representation. Eight-bit characters representing raw bytes are an exception. They are represented by one byte in a unibyte buffer, but when the buffer is set to multibyte, they are converted to two-byte sequences, and vice versa.

This function sets enable-multibyte-characters to record which representation is in use. It also adjusts various data in the buffer (including overlays, text properties and markers) so that they cover the same text as they did before.

This function signals an error if the buffer is narrowed, since the narrowing might have occurred in the middle of multibyte character sequences.

This function also signals an error if the buffer is an indirect buffer. An indirect buffer always inherits the representation of its base buffer.

— Function: string-as-unibyte string

If string is already a unibyte string, this function returns string itself. Otherwise, it returns a new string with the same bytes as string, but treating each byte as a separate character (so that the value may have more characters than string); as an exception, each eight-bit character representing a raw byte is converted into a single byte. The newly-created string contains no text properties.

— Function: string-as-multibyte string

If string is a multibyte string, this function returns string itself. Otherwise, it returns a new string with the same bytes as string, but treating each multibyte sequence as one character. This means that the value may have fewer characters than string has. If a byte sequence in string is invalid as a multibyte representation of a single character, each byte in the sequence is treated as a raw 8-bit byte. The newly-created string contains no text properties.