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I am used to the fact that LaTeX will only know letters like ä, ö, ü, or ß if I use packages like

\usepackage{ucs}
\usepackage[utf8x]{inputenc}
\usepackage[T1]{fontenc}

Today, I tried LaTeX on a Mac for the first time, using the MacTeX distribution and texmaker. Without writing down any packages, all umlauts and ß were accepted correctly from scratch. Why is that and will the usage of special letters without using the packages cause any problems?

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    Since 2018, the default encoding for files is UTF-8, so inputenc is not needed for files so encoded. You still need fontenc, though, if you want better hyphenation of words with accented and “special” characters. Note also that ucs and utf8x have been unmaintained for several years and are not recommended.
    – egreg
    Commented Jan 22, 2020 at 14:57
  • Interesting to know! There are a lot of tutorials out there still using the packages mentioned. As a relative newbie, I never noticed that these are deprecated. Thanks for advice! Is there any official documentation about when these changes happened, though?
    – TiMauzi
    Commented Jan 22, 2020 at 15:03
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    @TiMauzi Here: latex-project.org/news/latex2e-news/ltnews28.pdf All significant changes to the LaTeX kernel are announced with a LaTeX News issue, which you can find here Commented Jan 22, 2020 at 15:07

2 Answers 2

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Since the April 2018 release, LaTeX considers UTF-8 as default input encoding

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Thus calling \usepackage[utf8]{inputenc} at the start is no longer required. If a file has a different encoding than UTF-8, the proper encoding should, of course, be declared.

The utf8x add-on, together with the ucs package, used to be needed for some special application or, mostly, for typesetting Greek. The situation has very much changed and utf8x should be avoided (also ucs) as it has been unmaintained for several years and utf8 (the default) behaves much better.

On the other hand, loading fontenc is still required in order to use the T1 encoding and get better results with hyphenation of words containing accented letters or special glyphs used in European languages.

Why don't manuals and guides mention this? Because inertia prevails. :-(

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    I've just asked Overleaf to update their templates to reflect exactly this!
    – Joseph Wright
    Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 13:52
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    Sent a message to the Austrian tutorial site's admins, as well... (Link: latex.tugraz.at/latex/tutorial)
    – TiMauzi
    Commented Jan 26, 2020 at 17:54
  • @egreg Shouldn't inputenc be used at all or not just with the utf8 option? Commented Sep 25, 2022 at 18:34
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I don't have enough reputation to comment, but I'd like to add that in 2022 (after April 2018?) \usepackage[T1]{fontenc} is not just unnecessary but can be harmful for certain engines.

I used to include these packages in BibTex, together with \usepackage[ngerman]{babel} , following some old tutorials. ä ö ü worked fine but every ß was complied to SS.

This problem is solved by this question and an another explanition here( see https://tex.stackexchange.com/a/641959/278331)

In 2022 for unicode-aware engines as XeTex and LuaTex, just delete all of these package declarations

\usepackage{ucs}
\usepackage[utf8x]{inputenc}
\usepackage[T1]{fontenc}

then you would be able use all letters from ä to ß in source code directly

Edit: \usepackage[ngerman] is still required for a correct hyphenation

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  • ... if you are using an unicode-aware engine (XeTeX and LuaTeX). For pdfTeX, \usepackage[T1]{fontenc} is more or less required if you are writing anything more complicated than English Commented Sep 25, 2022 at 13:33
  • @ Phelype Oleinik Thank you for this introduction on difference among engines! I have corrected my answer.
    – IAN16
    Commented Sep 25, 2022 at 13:50
  • You still need \usepackage[ngerman]{babel} or words won’t be correctly hyphenated. Commented Sep 25, 2022 at 15:25
  • @Javier Bezos Thank you I have not noticed hyphenations. I have concluded this point in the answer .
    – IAN16
    Commented Sep 25, 2022 at 18:21

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