Utilities for handling UTF-8 reading/writing in console.

Current this library has two components: one tool to properly handle display width of UTF-8 strings and a UTF-8-friendly setw manipulator. Another is for reading UTF-8 string on Windows.

Demo Picture

Build & Usage

The project is built using CMake and no external dependency is required. Just simply configure and build the CMake project to get library files.

include directory contains public headers which should be added to your project include directories.

If you’re using CMake for your project, feel free to include the whole utf8-console in your project and use the utf8_console target.

For a quick start, check the example below (also available in example/example.cpp):

#include <iostream>
#include <iomanip>
#include <string>

#include "utf8_console.h"
using namespace std;

int main()

    std::string test_str1 = "测试 アイウエオ 😅🤣";
    std::string test_str2 = "テスト Россия";
    cout << "Test UTF-8 aligned output: " << endl
         << right << setw_u8(30, test_str1) << test_str1 << endl
         << right << setw_u8(30, test_str2) << test_str2 << endl
         << endl;

    cout << "Test UTF-8 input: Use EOF as end." << endl;
    std::string str;
    while (getline(cin, str))
        cout << str << endl;
    return 0;


Also check doc in include/utf8_console.h!

Console width utility

Simple usage

For all call sites of setw, replace it to setw_u8, and specific the string you’re writing as the second parameter (as string_view). Since setw status is reset after every I/O operation, you need to call setw_u8 every time you’re writing as well.

To obtain the display-width of a UTF-8 string, call utf8_cswidth.

The long story

When formatting strings containing non-ASCII UTF-8 characters using std::setw, strings may be misaligned due to the mismatch between the chars one “character” occupies and its actual display width on console. For example, CJK characters typically occupy 3 chars in UTF-8 but are as wide as 2 latin characters.

If the string is encoded using something like GB-18030 or Shift-JIS, a coincidence is exploited: one CJK character uses exactly 2 chars in those charsets. Therefore most times, the text is properly aligned. However, such a coincidence is error-prone. For example, if halfwidth Japanese kana is outputted, the result is still incorrect.

What if we could calculate the actual display width of a string on console? Consider the formula below:

Specified_Width = Desired_Width + (String_Byte_Count - String_Display_Width)

POSIX has provided wcwidth and wcswidth function to calculate the String_Display_Width, but it’s not available on Windows. A portable wcwidth implementation is included in this project. Another problem is that wcwidth takes one code point as input, so we need to convert UTF-8 string to UTF-32, so UTF8-CPP project was included to tackle this.

Factually, UTF8-CPP allows providing an OutputIterator as target, and if a custom implementation is provided, we no longer need to convert the string to UTF-32 because we only need to calculate the sum of width. Therefore the overhead of memory allocation is avoided.

Windows UTF-8 reading fix

Simple usage

Call initialize_utf8_console at the very beginning of your program.

Note: legacy streams like scanf and stdin is not affected!!

Put back features of cin is also not implemented.

Long story

Upon 2022-02-24, Microsoft still didn’t get the UTF-8 reading on console right on Windows. SetConsoleCP and chcp both have no effect and cin can just read a bunch of garbage (NUL or zeros) if console is feed non-ASCII characters.

Therefore, the only way to properly read UTF-8 characters from stdin is to use UTF-16 Windows APIs (specifically ReadConsoleW), and convert UTF-16 strings to UTF-8.

Additionally, a custom streambuf is provided, and initialize_utf8_console will install it to the system cin, therefore UTF-8 characters could be read insensibly.

License & Credits

This project is released under MIT license.

This project contains code or is inspired from:


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