Making GCC use proper quote marks

2006-09-19 23:18:12 -08:00

When you build a program in Xcode, you may have noticed that error messages from GCC look like this:

error.c: In function `main’:
error.c:2: warning: implicit declaration of function `pirntf’

This shouldn’t happen on a modern operating system with modern text capabilities. Fortunately, it is easy enough to make it do the Right Thing, which is to use Unicode quote marks.

First, figure out the correct ISO 639-1 language code for your preferred language. I use English, so mine is “en”. The Library of Congress has a list of ISO 639-1 language codes. In addition, you may want to append a region code; I use American English, so mine is “US”. These should be separated by an underscore; my full language specifier, then, is “en_US”.

Then, append “.UTF-8” to this (= “en_US.UTF-8”), and set it in your LC_ALL environment variable. You can do this by adding this variable to $HOME/.MacOSX/environment.plist. If you don’t already have one, you can create it with Property List Editor; you will need to move it to the proper location with Terminal. Either way, you will then need to logout and login.

GCC will then use nice Unicode quote marks in its output:

error.c: In function ‘main’:
error.c:2: warning: implicit declaration of function ‘pirntf’

There’s extra work to do if you also invoke builds from Terminal or xterm (whether you use xcodebuild, make, or gcc directly).


  1. Right-click on any Terminal window and choose “Window Settings…”.
  2. Switch to the “Display” pane.
  3. Set the character set encoding to UTF-8.
  4. Turn off “wide glyphs for Japanese/Chinese/etc.”.
  5. Click “Use Settings as Defaults”.


  1. In your .Xdefaults file, add these lines:

    xterm*font:        -*-clean-medium-r-*-*-12-*-*-*-*-*-iso10646-*
    xterm*boldFont:    -*-clean-bold-r-*-*-12-*-*-*-*-*-*-*
    xterm*utf8:        1

    Note that you can specify any font for the two font values; however, “clean”’s Unicode version only exists in plain, not boldface.

One Response to “Making GCC use proper quote marks”

  1. Bruce Mardle Says:

    Ah… so that’s why Emacs’ *compilation* buffer is such a mess under Debian 5.0.0! Thanks.

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