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This page contains frequently asked questions about the content provided with the International Components for Unicode for Java as well as basics on internationalization. It is organized into the following sections:

Common Questions

What version of Java is required for ICU4J?

ICU4J 4.4 or later versions utilize Java 5 language features and only run on JRE 5 or later. The ICU4J Locale SPI module depends on JDK 6 Locale Service Provider framework, therefore, it requires JRE 6 or later.

Comparison between ICU and JDK: What's the difference?

This is one of our most popular questions. Please refer to our comparison chart.

How can I get the version information of ICU4J library on my system?

You can get the ICU4J version information by public API class The static field VersionInfo.ICU_VERSION contains the current ICU4J library version information. Since ICU4J 4.6, ICU4J jar file includes Main-Class that prints out the ICU version information like below:

$ java -jar icu4j.jar
International Component for Unicode for Java 4.8

Implementation Version: 4.8
Unicode Data Version: 6.0
CLDR Data Version: 2.0
Time Zone Data Version: 2011g

I'm using ICU4J X, but planning to upgrade ICU4J version to X+1 soon. What should I do for the migration?

See the user guide section Version Numbers in ICU for the details about the meaning of the version number parts and how the ICU version number changes.

In general, two different reference releases are not binary compatible (i.e. drop-in jar file replacement would not work). To use a new reference version of ICU4J, you should rebuild your application with the new ICU4J library. ICU project has the API compatibility policy long as you're using ICU APIs marked as @stable in the API reference documentation, your application should successfully compile with the new reference version of ICU4J library without any source code modifications. (Note: ICU project team may retract APIs previously marked as @stable by well-defined process. But this is a very rare case.) However, you might still need to review the usage of ICU4J APIs especially when your application set a certain assumption on the behavior of APIs driven by Unicode or locale data. For example, a date format pattern used for locale X might not be exactly the same with the pattern in a new version.

How can I see all API changes between two different ICU versions?

For every ICU4J release, we publish APIChangeReport.html which captures all API changes since previous reference release. However, someone may want to see the changes between the current release and much older ICU4J version. For example, you're currently using ICU4J 60 and considering to upgrade to ICU4J 64. In this case, you can generate a change report page by following steps.

  1. Download ICU4J 64 source package archive from the ICU 64 download page and extract files to your local system.
  2. Set up ICU4J build environment as explained in the ICU4C Readme.
  3. Edit in the root directory and change the property value from 63 to 60.
  4. Invoke ant target “apireport”.
  5. The output is generated at out/icu4j_compare_60_64.html.

International Calendars

Why do I need these classes?

If your application displays or manipulates dates and times, and if you want your application to run in countries outside of North America and western Europe, you need to support the traditional calendar systems that are still in use in some parts of the world. These classes provide that support while conforming to the standard Java Calendar API, allowing you to code your application once and have it work with any international calendar.

Which Japanese calendar do you support?

Currently, our JapaneseCalendar is almost identical to the Gregorian calendar, except that it follows the traditional conventions for year and era names. In modern times, each emperor‘s reign is treated as an era, and years are numbered from the start of that era. Historically each emperor’s reign would be divided up into several eras, or gengou. Currently, our era data extends back to Haika, which began in 645 AD. In all other respects (month and date, all of the time fields, etc.) the JapaneseCalendar class will give results that are identical to GregorianCalendar.

Lunar calendars similar to the Chinese calendar have also been used in Japan during various periods in history, but according to our sources they are not in common use today. If you see a real need for a Japanese lunar calendar, and especially if you know of any good references on how it differs from the Chinese calendar, please let us know by posting a note on the mailing list.

Do you really support the true lunar Islamic calendar?

The Islamic calendar is strictly lunar, and a month begins at the moment when the crescent of the new moon is visible above the horizon at sunset. It is impossible to calculate this calendar in advance with 100% accuracy, since moon sightings are dependent on the location of the observer, the weather, the observer‘s eyesight, and so on. However, there are fairly commonly-accepted criteria (the angle between the sun and the moon, the moon’s angle above the horizon, the position of the moon's bright limb, etc.) that let you predict the start of any given month with a very high degree of accuracy, except of course for the weather factor. We currently use a fairly crude approximation that is still relatively accurate, corresponding with the official Saudi calendar for all but one month in the last 40-odd years. This will be improved in future versions of the class.

What all this boils down to is that the IslamicCalendar class does a fairly good job of predicting the Islamic calendar, and it is good enough for most computational purposes. However, for religious purposes you should, of course, consult the appropriate mosque or other authority.


Does ICU4J have its own time zone rule data?

Yes. ICU4J library contains time zone rule data generated from the tz database.

Why does ICU4J carry the time zone rule data while my JRE also has the data?

There are several reasons. Bundling our own time zone data allow us to provide quick updates to users. ICU project team usually release the latest time zone rule data patch as soon as the new tz database release is published (usually within 1 to 3 days). Having our own rule data also allows the ICU4J library to provide some advanced TimeZone features (see API documentation).

How can I get the latest time zone rule data patch?

You can use ICU4J Time Zone Update Utility to update the time zone rule data to the latest.

I do not want to maintain yet another time zone rule data. Are there any way to configure ICU4J to use the JRE's time zone data?

If you do not use the advanced TimeZone features, then you can configure ICU4J to use JRE's time zone support by editing (included in ICU4J library jar file) or simply setting a system property. See API documentation for the details.


Do I have to know anything about Collators to use StringSearch?

Since StringSearch uses a RuleBasedCollator to handle the language-sensitive aspects of searching, understanding how collation works certainly helps. But the only parts of the Collator API that you really need to know about are the collation strength values, PRIMARY, SECONDARY, and TERTIARY, that determine whether case and accents are ignored during a search.

What algorithm are you using to perform the search?

As of ICU4J 53 / ICU4C 4.0, StringSearch uses a simple linear search algorithm which locates a match by shifting a cursor in the target text one by one. Previous versions of ICU used a version of the Boyer-Moore search algorithm which was modified for use with Unicode. Rather than using raw Unicode character values in its comparisons and shift tables, the algorithm uses collation elements that have been “hashed” down to a smaller range to make the tables a reasonable size.


Why did you bother to rewrite BreakIterator? Wasn't the old version working?

It was working, but we were too constrained by the design. The break-data tables were hard-coded, and there was only one set of them. This meant you couldn‘t customize BreakIterator’s behavior, nor could we accommodate languages with mutually-exclusive breaking rules (Japanese and Chinese, for example, have different word-breaking rules.) The hard-coded tables were also very complicated, difficult to maintain, and easy to mess up, leading to mysterious bugs. And in the original version, there was no way to subclass BreakIterator and get any implementation at all -- if you wanted different behavior, you had to rewrite the whole thing from scratch. We undertook this project to fix all these problems and give us a better platform for future development. In addition, we managed to get some significant performance improvements out of the new version.

What do you mean, performance improvements? It seems WAY slower to me!

The one thing that‘s significantly slower is construction. This is because it actually builds the tables at runtime by parsing a textual description. In the old version, the tables were hard-coded, so no initialization was necessary. If this is causing you trouble, it’s likely that you‘re creating and destroying BreakIterators too frequently. For example, if you’re writing code to word-wrap a document in a text editor, and you create and destroy a new BreakIterator for every line you process, performance will be unbelievably slow. If you move the creation out of the inner loop and create a new BreakIterator only once per word-wrapping operation, or once per document, you'll find that your performance improves dramatically. If you still have problems after doing this, let us know -- there may be bugs we need to fix.

This still has all the same bugs that the old BreakIterator did! Why would I want to use this one instead?

Because now you can fix it. The resource data in this package was designed to mimic as closely as possible the behavior of the original BreakIterator class (as of JDK 1.2). We did this deliberately to minimize our variables when making sure the new iterator still passed all the old tests. We haven‘t updated it since to avoid the bookkeeping hassles of keeping track of which version includes which fixes. We’re hoping to get this added to a future version of the JDK, at which time we'll fix all the outstanding bugs relating to breaking in the wrong places. In the meantime, you can customize the resource data to modify things to work the way you want them to.

Why is there no demo?

We haven‘t had time to write a good demo for this new functionality yet. We’ll add one later.

What's this DictionaryBasedBreakIterator thing?

This is a new feature that isn‘t in the JDK. DictionaryBasedBreakIterator is intended for use with languages that don’t put spaces between words (such as Thai), or for languages that do put spaces between words, but often combine lots of words into long compound words (such as German). Instead of looking through the text for sequences of characters that signal the end of a word, it compares the text against a list of known words, using this to determine where the boundaries should go. The algorithm we use for this is fast, accurate, and error-tolerant.

Why do you have a Thai dictionary, but no resource data that actually lets me use it?

We‘re not quite done doing the necessary research. We don’t currently have good test cases we can use to verify it‘s working correctly with Thai, nor are we completely confident in our dictionary. If you can help us with this, we’d like to hear from you!

What's this BreakIteratorRules_en_US_TEST thing?

This is a resource file that, in conjunction with the “english.dict” dictionary, we used to test the dictionary-based break iterator. It allows you to locate word boundaries in English text that has had the spaces taken out. (The SimpleBITest program demonstrates this.) The dictionary isn‘t industrial-strength, however: we included enough words to make for a reasonable test, but it’s by no means complete or anywhere near it.

How can I create my own dictionary file?

Right now, you can‘t. We didn’t include the tool we used to create dictionary files because it‘s very rough and extremely slow. There’s also a strong likelihood that the format of the dictionary files will change in the future. If you really want to create your own dictionary file, contact us, and we'll see what we can do.