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Sorry for replying late. Hey, in the internet age, a 4 days delay is a
long time...

Frank Mittelbach wrote:
> what i mean is that most people write their document in a single input
> encoding and do not switch that encoding (or even can switch) just
> because they switch from one language to another.
Sure. Mainly because usualy people don't switch from a language to
another, or, if they do, it is usually languages with compatible
encodings. But I imagine (maybe wrongly) that you need to switch
encodings when writing an english-russian document.

> Anyway, for font encodings a default setting different from the system default
> (if necessary) does make sense and current babel already tries to do that,
> though as Denis report shows not always successfully.

I am happy to hear that. Now, about input encodings...

> furthermore, because of the argument that the input encoding doesn't really
> change "wenn ich jetzt in Deutsch schreibe" (both are latin1 as far as
> this mail is concerned) so for english and german and french it should
> probably be the same. ansinew because a lot of people use PCs? or latin1
> because Linux is going to take over the world? or should it change in a
> year or two when the latter happens --- with the result that then older
> documents would compile incorrectly because they assume the no longer
> correct default?

I should go to the latin1 by default, because it is somehow a more
accepted standard (in the sens that it is an ISO standard) than ansinew.
But we are lucky: ansinew and latin1 are compatible, in the sens that
latin1 is a subset of ansinew (there are 24 extra characters in ansinew,
in the 130--159 range), so a source.tex composed in the ansinew encoding
would be readable on a unix system, except for some very rare characters.
Probably the best of all worlds would be to advertize and document that
latin1 is the default encoding (for standards compliance), and thus
encourage people to use \oe or \dots or -- instead of the characters 156,
133 or 150, but silently accept all the extra ansinew characters so that
careless window users don't get surprised.

What is sure, is that once a default encoding is choosen, it will be hard
to change it (the only way would probably be to change \documentclass
into \documenttype :-)

> finally applying the wrong input encoding to a document not in that
> encoding results in typesetting errors but not in compilation errors.
> true, this can also happen if you explicitly specify the wrong encoding
> but this is a conscious act (or so we would hope) and not something htat
> happens behind the scene

I have seen many beginners that begin typing in french their document
without declaring an inputenc, and not realizing at once that accents are
missing in the document. I would not call forgetting an \usepackage
declaration a conscious act.

> which reminds me: please take the list of languages babel currently supports
> and attach to them input/font encoding defaults that would be suitable, i
> would really be interested in see such a list (and have it disucssed)

Oh, I am certainly not able to do that. If I was to make a choice, I
would use the appropriate latinxxx encodings for each language, but I am
certainly not qualified to choose for all those languages.

Éric