This printable encoding step is applicable to PEM message types ENCRYPTED and MIC-ONLY. The same processing is also employed in representation of certain specifically identified PEM encapsulated header field quantities as cited in Section 4.6. Proceeding from left to right, the bit string resulting from step 3 is encoded into characters which are universally representable at all sites, though not necessarily with the same bit patterns (e.g., although the character "E" is represented in an ASCII-based system as hexadecimal 45 and as hexadecimal C5 in an EBCDIC-based system, the local significance of the two representations is equivalent).
A 64-character subset of International Alphabet IA5 is used, enabling 6 bits to be represented per printable character. (The proposed subset of characters is represented identically in IA5 and ASCII.) The character "=" signifies a special processing function used for padding within the printable encoding procedure.
To represent the encapsulated text of a PEM message, the encoding function's output is delimited into text lines (using local conventions), with each line except the last containing exactly 64 printable characters and the final line containing 64 or fewer printable characters. (This line length is easily printable and is guaranteed to satisfy SMTP's 1000-character transmitted line length limit.) This folding requirement does not apply when the encoding procedure is used to represent PEM header field quantities; Section 4.6 discusses folding of PEM encapsulated header fields.
The encoding process represents 24-bit groups of input bits as output strings of 4 encoded characters. Proceeding from left to right across a 24-bit input group extracted from the output of step 3, each 6-bit group is used as an index into an array of 64 printable characters. The character referenced by the index is placed in the output string. These characters, identified in Table 1, are selected so as to be universally representable, and the set excludes characters with particular significance to SMTP (e.g., ".", "<CR>", "<LF>").
Special processing is performed if fewer than 24 bits are available in an input group at the end of a message. A full encoding quantum is always completed at the end of a message. When fewer than 24 input bits are available in an input group, zero bits are added (on the right) to form an integral number of 6-bit groups. Output character positions which are not required to represent actual input data are set to the character "=". Since all canonically encoded output is an integral number of octets, only the following cases can arise: (1) the final quantum of encoding input is an integral multiple of 24 bits; here, the final unit of encoded output will be an integral multiple of 4 characters with no "=" padding, (2) the final quantum of encoding input is exactly 8 bits; here, the final unit of encoded output will be two characters followed by two "=" padding characters, or (3) the final quantum of encoding input is exactly 16 bits; here, the final unit of encoded output will be three characters followed by one "=" padding character.
Value Encoding Value Encoding Value Encoding Value Encoding 0 A 17 R 34 i 51 z 1 B 18 S 35 j 52 0 2 C 19 T 36 k 53 1 3 D 20 U 37 l 54 2 4 E 21 V 38 m 55 3 5 F 22 W 39 n 56 4 6 G 23 X 40 o 57 5 7 H 24 Y 41 p 58 6 8 I 25 Z 42 q 59 7 9 J 26 a 43 r 60 8 10 K 27 b 44 s 61 9 11 L 28 c 45 t 62 + 12 M 29 d 46 u 63 / 13 N 30 e 47 v 14 O 31 f 48 w (pad) = 15 P 32 g 49 x 16 Q 33 h 50 y Printable Encoding Characters Table 1