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A character set is a collection of symbols in a specific order. Some common character sets are ASCII and ISO Latin 1.
The term ``encoding vector'' is most frequently heard in the context of PostScript fonts. An encoding vector embodies a particular character set, it is simply the list of all the characters in the character set in the order in which they occur.
Most font technologies limit a particular encoding to 256 characters; an Adobe Type 1 font, for example, may contain an arbitrary number of characters, but no single encoding vector can contain more than 256.
Some common encodings are:
You can get tables showing the layout of many standard character sets from the Kermit distribution (via anonymous ftp from watsun.cc.columbia.edu in /kermit/charsets.