Re: How to type sporadic Unicode (was: User interface for keyboard input)

From: Martin Kochanski (
Date: Fri Jul 19 2002 - 08:36:26 EDT

One of the nice things about this mailing list is that one gets answers from the horse's mouth!

I appreciate the clarification; but it does (for my purposes, as a mere software designer) reduce ISO/IEC 14755 to a sort of Platonic form whose shadow in the real world we have still to find - or, to sound more computerish, to a sort of abstract class that still needs implementation. Very nearly anything (it seems to me) could act as the beginning sequence or the ending sequence.

[Of course, I may be being confused here: standards, like patents, are written in a very specific form].

There are infinitely many possible beginning and ending sequences, so in principle every program in the world could use a different one and still conform to ISO/IEC 14755.

I do not mean this to say that the standard is useless. Quite apart from the use of the space as meaning "finish the last character and start a new one", which is useful and something I hadn't thought of, it does neatly exclude the worse variants of Alt+X, which essentially say "Beginning sequence = <do nothing>, Ending sequence=Alt+X", and are thus open to the CACF9 problem.

For software that is intended for non-programmers, I would suggest that any useful implementation of ISO/IEC 14755 should include, as a permissible ending sequence, "Take your hands off the keyboard". Programmers are used to the idea of modal toggles, but non-programmers aren't (think of Shift Lock) and the proprioceptive feedback of "I am holding down a key, therefore I am in a mode" is indispensable.

But I'm worried whether ISO/IEC 14755 will ever take hold. Microsoft are bigger than you are, and de facto standards are more powerful than de jure ones. I know that some Microsoft people hang out on here: could any of them be coaxed out of their discreet silence?

At 07:25 19/07/02 -0400, Alain LaBonté  wrote:

ISO 14755 looks promising. For those who don't make it their daily reading (or to show off my pitiful misunderstanding of it), it could be described as "Use the Alt+nnn approach, but use Ctrl+Shift instead of Alt, to indicate hexadecimal digits". Am I right about this?

[Alain] What you describe is an example. ISO/IEC 14755 does not prescribe the "beginning sequence" nor the "ending sequence" used to introduce and end the Uxxxxx identifiers. For the example you give (see section 5.1 of the International standard), it is said:

Note: In the following examples, it is assumed here that the beginning sequence consists in the combined use of keys Level 2 Select and Control. The ending sequence corresponds to the releasing of these keys. This should only be considered as an example of implementation for these sequences.

When I answered yesterday:

A 09:26 2002-07-18 -0700, Addison Phillips [wM] a écrit :
When I confronted this specific problem recently in our products, the main
solution I adopted was to allow \uXXXX notation as input (of course, our
products are for developers...)

[Alain] That's an approach similar (I could even almost say "conformant") to the one proposed in ISO/IEC 14755, Input methods to enter UCS characters with the help of a[ny] keyboard.

then I told myself (that's why I wrote « I could even almost say "conformant" » -- that was too prudent, it is conformant) that the "\u" sequence here could be considered a "beginning sequencce" and the character SPACE an "ending sequence".

Alain LaBonté
Project editor, ISO/IEC 14755


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