Re: User interface for keyboard input

From: Otto Stolz (
Date: Thu Jul 18 2002 - 13:25:02 EDT

Martin Kochanski wrote:

> "If I sat you down in front of a program on a Windows machine, and asked you

> to type an alpha, what would you try first?".

- Klick on the white DE on blue background (indicating my German
keyboard layout),
   in the task bar,
- select Greek keyboard layout,
- Type α (i. e., hit the A key and see an "α" appearing on the screen).

> I am deliberately not specifying what program, nor what version of Windows,

> nor what keyboard

The above will work with any Unicode-capable application.

> - although we can take it for granted that you have not

> got a keyboard with Greek letters enabled,

Why not? It's so easy, in contemporary Windows versions.
Why shouldn't I install a couple of keyboard layouts for the scripts
I am going to type, on my Windows system?

I'd rather by surprised if some application program expected me to
do it in some other way. I deem uniform user-interface a very important
feature; so if a system offers a feasable way to do something, applications
should exploit it rather than offering their own, contrasting solutions.

> Incidentally, menu commands are probably not an acceptable solution,

> because if you can enter data then you must also be able to search for data,

> and searching means dialog boxes, and dialog boxes are not meant to have menus.

Incidentally, all fields in all windows (including dialog boxes) should
allow for the common Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V, and CTRL-X shortcuts for the Clipboard
functions. This would allow the user to paste a string found in some other
window (even another application) wherever they see fit, e. g., into a
search field in some dialog box.

This opens another way to insert characters not easily found on available
keyboard layouts: Open the CHARMAP (in Windows 2k/XP) or Word's
and pick the characters from there, again using the Clipboard functions.
(Of course, this is only feasable for the occasional character from another
Unicode range.) (In Windows 95, 98, ME, the Charmap has only 224 entries,
in NT, I don't recall from the top of my head.)

In Word, you can also define shortcut keys for characters you would other-
wise pick from Insert/Symbol.

> The obvious thing to try is Alt+945: indeed, we have already implemented this;

> but it has the disadvantage that all available Unicode documentation uses hexa-

> decimal character codes, not decimal ones.

I deem superior Word's Insert/Symbol menu-item, with its user-defined

> Various Windows programs offer ways of entering Unicode characters using

> hexadecimal codes, but they all seem to differ.

Windows keyboard-layouts (and IMEs) and the universally accessable clipboard
(in Unicode encoding) offer a lot of uniformity you should exploit.

> Much of this inconsistency is because Microsoft keep on changing their mind

> about how character entry should be done.

There is indeed a difference between the Windows 95/98/ME line, which is
essentially based on codepages, and Windows NT/2k/XP, which dwell on
Still, the Unicode-based clipoard seems to be sort of a "lingua Franca"
(universal language).

My impressions as a regular user of various Windows flavours, but not
as a developer who knows the internals.

Best wishes,

   Otto Stolz

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