In the Unicode standard, a plane is a continuous group of 65,536 (216) code points. There are 17 planes, identified by the numbers 0 to 16, which corresponds with the possible values 00–1016 of the first two positions in six position hexadecimal format (U+hhhhhh). Plane 0 is the Basic Multilingual Plane (BMP), which contains most commonly used characters. The higher planes 1 through 16 are called "supplementary planes". The very last code point in Unicode is the last code point in plane 16, U+10FFFF. As of Unicode version 12.1, six of the planes have assigned code points (characters), and four are named.
The limit of 17 planes is due to UTF-16, which can encode 220 code points (16 planes) as pairs of words, plus the BMP as a single word. UTF-8 was designed with a much larger limit of 231 (2,147,483,648) code points (32,768 planes), and can encode 221 (2,097,152) code points (32 planes) even under the current limit of 4 bytes.
The 17 planes can accommodate 1,114,112 code points. Of these, 2,048 are surrogates (used to make the pairs in UTF-16), 66 are non-characters, and 137,468 are reserved for private use, leaving 974,530 for public assignment.
Planes are further subdivided into Unicode blocks, which, unlike planes, do not have a fixed size. The 300 blocks defined in Unicode 12.1 cover 25% of the possible code point space, and range in size from a minimum of 16 code points (fourteen blocks) to a maximum of 65,536 code points (Supplementary Private Use Area-A and -B, which constitute the entirety of planes 15 and 16). For future usage, ranges of characters have been tentatively mapped out for most known current and ancient writing systems.
|Plane 0||Plane 1||Plane 2||Plane 3||Planes 4–13||Plane 14||Planes 15–16|
|Basic Multilingual Plane||Supplementary Multilingual Plane||Supplementary Ideographic Plane||Tertiary Ideographic Plane (unassigned)||unassigned||Supplementary Special-purpose Plane||Supplementary Private Use Area planes|
|Plane||Allocated code points[note 1]||Assigned characters[note 2]|
The first plane, plane 0, the Basic Multilingual Plane (BMP) contains characters for almost all modern languages, and a large number of symbols. A primary objective for the BMP is to support the unification of prior character sets as well as characters for writing. Most of the assigned code points in the BMP are used to encode Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (CJK) characters.
The High Surrogate (U+D800–U+DBFF) and Low Surrogate (U+DC00–U+DFFF) codes are reserved for encoding non-BMP characters in UTF-16 by using a pair of 16-bit codes: one High Surrogate and one Low Surrogate. A single surrogate code point will never be assigned a character.
65,472 of the 65,536 code points in this plane have been allocated to a Unicode block, leaving just 64 code points in unallocated ranges (48 code points at 0870..089F and 16 code points at 2FE0..2FEF).
As of Unicode 12.1[update], the BMP comprises the following 163 blocks:
Plane 1, the Supplementary Multilingual Plane (SMP), contains historic scripts (except CJK ideographic), and symbols and notation used within certain fields. Scripts include Linear B, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and cuneiform scripts. It also includes English reform orthographies like Shavian and Deseret, and some modern scripts like Osage, Warang Citi, and Adlam. Symbols and notations include historic and modern musical notation; mathematical alphanumerics; Emoji and other pictographic sets; and game symbols for playing cards, Mah Jongg, and dominoes.
As of Unicode 12.1[update], the SMP comprises the following 127 blocks:
Plane 2, the Supplementary Ideographic Plane (SIP), is used for CJK Ideographs, mostly CJK Unified Ideographs, that were not included in earlier character encoding standards.
As of Unicode 12.1[update], the SIP comprises the following six blocks:
Planes 3 to 13 (planes 3 to D in hexadecimal): No characters have yet been assigned to Planes 3 through 13. Plane 3 is tentatively named the Tertiary Ideographic Plane (TIP). The next version of Unicode (13.0) is scheduled to use it for additional CJK ideographs, but as of the latest finalized version (12.1) there are no characters assigned to it. It also is tenatively allocated for Oracle Bone script, Bronze Script, Small Seal Script, supplement characters for existing scripts, and other historic ideographic scripts.
It is not anticipated that all these planes will be used in the foreseeable future, given the total sizes of the known writing systems left to be encoded. The number of possible symbol characters that could arise outside of the context of writing systems is potentially huge. At the moment, these 11 planes out of 17 are unused.
Plane 14 (E in hexadecimal), the Supplementary Special-purpose Plane (SSP), currently contains non-graphical characters. The first block is for special use tag characters. The other block contains glyph variation selectors to indicate an alternate glyph for a character that cannot be determined by context.
As of Unicode 12.1[update], the SSP comprises the following two blocks:
The two planes 15 and 16 (planes F and 10 in hexadecimal), are designated as "private use planes". They contain blocks called Supplementary Private Use Area-A (PUA-A) and -B (PUA-B), Private Use Areas, which are available for character assignment by parties outside the ISO and the Unicode Consortium. They are used by fonts internally to refer to auxiliary glyphs, for example, ligatures and building blocks for other glyphs. Such characters will have limited interoperability. Software and fonts that support Unicode will not necessarily support character assignments by other parties.