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Suddenly some of my text files, I'm editing with Emacs had changed and special characters were shown in a strange way, e. g.

\344 instead of ä
\374 instead of ü ... and so on.

In another file I now have

ü for ü
ä for ä ....

(I don't know which event was the cause for that, maybe I've been doing something wrong.)

I'd like to convert the document back to its original state (my standard encoding is UTF-8), so that it is displayed correctly with ä, ö, ü, ... but I do not know how to do that with emacs.

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up vote 14 down vote accepted

If you haven't changed the file, you can try M-x revert-buffer-with-coding-system. One of latin-1 or utf-8 should work, depending on the file.

You can also mark the entire file with C-x h and then try M-x recode-region. It will ask you for Text was really in and But was interpreted as. For the first file in your question, it looks like it should be latin-1 and utf-8, and for the second example it should probably be the other way around, utf-8 and latin-1.

After you got it right, you can choose which coding system to save the file with using M-x set-buffer-file-coding-system (or C-x C-m f for short).

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thanks a lot - that worked perfectly!! :-) – MostlyHarmless Feb 11 '13 at 13:50
Unfortunately, I need that command quite often, so I'd like to define a keyboard shortcut to invoke recode-region (orig: latin-1, interpreted as utf-8-dos) with one keystroke. How can I define a little program, which does that and which I can map to a key? – MostlyHarmless Jan 21 '14 at 14:19
You could record it as a macro, and then name, bind and save it as described here:… – legoscia Jan 21 '14 at 14:59

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