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Reading a Unicode Excel File in PHP

It’s easy to save an Excel file as CSV and read it in PHP with the fgetcsv function but this may not work so well if the file contains non-English characters.

Excel uses a non-standard character encoding for csv files.

You can save an Excel file as ‘unicode’ text however there are several unicode systems - Windows uses UTF-16, and PHP uses UTF-8.

To open the ‘unicode text’ file in PHP you have to convert it, in addition you may want to be able to open UTF-8 files that may be created by other systems.

PHP has an encoding detection function - but it can’t detect UTF-16.

I’ve solved the problem with the following function which detects from several encodings, adds an appropriate filter, and returns a filehandle which reads as UTF-8.