Node.js v21.0.0-nightly2023072848345d0f62 documentation

Table of contents

Internationalization support#

Node.js has many features that make it easier to write internationalized programs. Some of them are:

Node.js and the underlying V8 engine use International Components for Unicode (ICU) to implement these features in native C/C++ code. The full ICU data set is provided by Node.js by default. However, due to the size of the ICU data file, several options are provided for customizing the ICU data set either when building or running Node.js.

Options for building Node.js#

To control how ICU is used in Node.js, four configure options are available during compilation. Additional details on how to compile Node.js are documented in

  • --with-intl=none/--without-intl
  • --with-intl=system-icu
  • --with-intl=small-icu
  • --with-intl=full-icu (default)

An overview of available Node.js and JavaScript features for each configure option:

String.prototype.normalize()none (function is no-op)fullfullfull*Case()fullfullfullfull
Intlnone (object does not exist)partial/full (depends on OS)partial (English-only)full
String.prototype.localeCompare()partial (not locale-aware)fullfullfull
String.prototype.toLocale*Case()partial (not locale-aware)fullfullfull
Number.prototype.toLocaleString()partial (not locale-aware)partial/full (depends on OS)partial (English-only)full
Date.prototype.toLocale*String()partial (not locale-aware)partial/full (depends on OS)partial (English-only)full
Legacy URL Parserpartial (no IDN support)fullfullfull
WHATWG URL Parserpartial (no IDN support)fullfullfull
require('node:buffer').transcode()none (function does not exist)fullfullfull
REPLpartial (inaccurate line editing)fullfullfull
require('node:util').TextDecoderpartial (basic encodings support)partial/full (depends on OS)partial (Unicode-only)full
RegExp Unicode Property Escapesnone (invalid RegExp error)fullfullfull

The "(not locale-aware)" designation denotes that the function carries out its operation just like the non-Locale version of the function, if one exists. For example, under none mode, Date.prototype.toLocaleString()'s operation is identical to that of Date.prototype.toString().

Disable all internationalization features (none)#

If this option is chosen, ICU is disabled and most internationalization features mentioned above will be unavailable in the resulting node binary.

Build with a pre-installed ICU (system-icu)#

Node.js can link against an ICU build already installed on the system. In fact, most Linux distributions already come with ICU installed, and this option would make it possible to reuse the same set of data used by other components in the OS.

Functionalities that only require the ICU library itself, such as String.prototype.normalize() and the WHATWG URL parser, are fully supported under system-icu. Features that require ICU locale data in addition, such as Intl.DateTimeFormat may be fully or partially supported, depending on the completeness of the ICU data installed on the system.

Embed a limited set of ICU data (small-icu)#

This option makes the resulting binary link against the ICU library statically, and includes a subset of ICU data (typically only the English locale) within the node executable.

Functionalities that only require the ICU library itself, such as String.prototype.normalize() and the WHATWG URL parser, are fully supported under small-icu. Features that require ICU locale data in addition, such as Intl.DateTimeFormat, generally only work with the English locale:

const january = new Date(9e8);
const english = new Intl.DateTimeFormat('en', { month: 'long' });
const spanish = new Intl.DateTimeFormat('es', { month: 'long' });

// Prints "January"
// Prints either "M01" or "January" on small-icu, depending on the user’s default locale
// Should print "enero" 

This mode provides a balance between features and binary size.

Providing ICU data at runtime#

If the small-icu option is used, one can still provide additional locale data at runtime so that the JS methods would work for all ICU locales. Assuming the data file is stored at /some/directory, it can be made available to ICU through either:

  • The NODE_ICU_DATA environment variable:

    env NODE_ICU_DATA=/some/directory node 
  • The --icu-data-dir CLI parameter:

    node --icu-data-dir=/some/directory 

(If both are specified, the --icu-data-dir CLI parameter takes precedence.)

ICU is able to automatically find and load a variety of data formats, but the data must be appropriate for the ICU version, and the file correctly named. The most common name for the data file is icudt6X[bl].dat, where 6X denotes the intended ICU version, and b or l indicates the system's endianness. Check "ICU Data" article in the ICU User Guide for other supported formats and more details on ICU data in general.

The full-icu npm module can greatly simplify ICU data installation by detecting the ICU version of the running node executable and downloading the appropriate data file. After installing the module through npm i full-icu, the data file will be available at ./node_modules/full-icu. This path can be then passed either to NODE_ICU_DATA or --icu-data-dir as shown above to enable full Intl support.

Embed the entire ICU (full-icu)#

This option makes the resulting binary link against ICU statically and include a full set of ICU data. A binary created this way has no further external dependencies and supports all locales, but might be rather large. This is the default behavior if no --with-intl flag is passed. The official binaries are also built in this mode.

Detecting internationalization support#

To verify that ICU is enabled at all (system-icu, small-icu, or full-icu), simply checking the existence of Intl should suffice:

const hasICU = typeof Intl === 'object'; 

Alternatively, checking for, a property defined only when ICU is enabled, works too:

const hasICU = typeof === 'string'; 

To check for support for a non-English locale (i.e. full-icu or system-icu), Intl.DateTimeFormat can be a good distinguishing factor:

const hasFullICU = (() => {
  try {
    const january = new Date(9e8);
    const spanish = new Intl.DateTimeFormat('es', { month: 'long' });
    return spanish.format(january) === 'enero';
  } catch (err) {
    return false;

For more verbose tests for Intl support, the following resources may be found to be helpful:

  • btest402: Generally used to check whether Node.js with Intl support is built correctly.
  • Test262: ECMAScript's official conformance test suite includes a section dedicated to ECMA-402.