uuencode file format
The command generates files in a format that allows them to be successfully transferred by
systems which strip the high bit from an 8-bit byte. decodes uuencoded files.
The uuencode file format consists of three sections: header, body, and trailer. The
header is a line is of the form:
begin 644 "filename.ext"
where "644" is a -format permissions byte for the file and "filename.ext" is the name of
the encoded file.
The body section is the encoded representation of the source file. Three bytes of input
file data are encoded into four bytes of output data.
The 24 input bits are divided up into four pieces of six bits each. The integer value 32
(the ASCII value for the space character) is added to each of these pieces to move them
outside of the range of control characters. To avoid using the space character in the
encoding, pieces with value zero are encoded using backquote (ASCII value 96) instead of
zero. The resulting character is one of the this set (ASCII values 96,33-95):
A line itself contains three segments: a length character (encoded using the "add a space"
algorithm described above), the body of the line, typically (although not required to be)
60 output characters long, representing 45 input bytes, and (of course) a linefeed. The
length character specifies the number of valid input bytes on the line (so, for a line
which is 60 encoded bytes, the length value would be 45). Decoding programs should decode
no further than the specified length on a single line.
The trailer, which must exist, consists of a single backquote ("`", ASCII 96) character on
a line by itself, directly followed by on a line by itself.
is the canonical filename extension for uuencoded files.
uudecode does not read all permutations of the file format described in this man page.
Ancient versions of uuencode used a space character (ASCII 32) in the encoding to repre-
sent zero. Many (arguably broken) mailers and transport agents stripped, rewrapped, or
otherwise mangled this format, so the space was later changed to the backquote, ASCII 96.
Decoders may attempt to read the older format if they wish, though it's unlikely to be
encountered in practice at this point in time.
The uuencode encoding method is highly ASCII-centric. In particular, the character set
used doesn't work well on EBCDIC-based systems. (EBCDIC, generally used by IBM mainframes,
is an old alternative character encoding; most computers use ASCII instead).
Many variants of uuencode on various platforms generate different forms of line checksums,
using to represent the checksum one or more encoded characters after the last counted
character in a line. Because these formats are different and impossible to distinguish
(with certainty), such characters should be ignored by decoding implementations.
The uuencode encoding format has no provisions for segmented files. Writers of segmenting
utilities should be careful to avoid using character sequences that may naturally occur in
the encoding (such as sequences of dashes ("---")) to divide sections.
The MIME Base64 encoding (documented in RFC 2045) is a consistent, cross-platform-savvy
message encoding which should be used in place of UUEncode wherever possible.
The Unix-Hater's Handbook (IDG, 1994) identifies the folly of the older zero-encoded-as-
space versions of uuencode.
Apple Computer, Inc. May, 2001 uuencode(5)