Re: Hexadecimal character entry (ISO 14755)

From: Markus Kuhn (
Date: Sun Jun 06 1999 - 05:09:22 EDT

"John Jenkins" wrote on 1999-06-06 02:39 UTC:
> > And just how many people are likely to remember what U+2323 is?
> Well, I sure as heck don't. And I'm too lazy it dig out my copy of the
> standard or look it up.
> Anything which requires people to remember an arcane four-digit code to
> input *any* character is ridiculous.

ISO 14755 is a fallback character entry system. It is NOT intended to be
used for the characters that everyone needs frequently. It is intended
to guarantee you access to ALL Unicode characters, including those that
are not even in the font of your system.

There is a trade-off between friendliness for new naive users and
high-performance usability by expert users who to all day long nothing
but using your software and who couldn't care less about fancy slow
pull-down menus and mouse activated functions if the same functionality
is also available within a few hundred milliseconds via a fixed keyboard

I absolutely require that I am able to access any Unicode key on any
Unicode capable keyboard using the exact same simple hex entry method. I
know a whole range of characters by hex values, and even more are
sticking with a post-it note on the wall behind my terminal. It is
unacceptable for me to go through long-winded mouse and cursor based
menu selection schemes to select my mathematical characters, because
this takes me several seconds, while hex entry takes me typically less
than around 1200 ms if I have to enter the character frequently (say a
rare special mathematical operator that I happen to use in my paper
frequently). mouse and cursor based character selection should certainly
be there (and ISO 14755 has also a section about that!), but it must not
be the only option to enter rare characters that some users might
occasionally need more frequently temporarily.

I highly appreciate the existence of ISO 14755 and I hope that it or
comparable mechanisms will be very widely implemented. The MS-DOS
ALT-123 character entry method was very widely known and heavily used by
many professional typists in preference over any slow interactive
alternatives. I expect that the same will happen for ISO 14755.

Will Unicode 3.0 contain a summary of ISO 14755?


Markus G. Kuhn, Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge, UK
Email: mkuhn at,  WWW: <>

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