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

From: Doug Ewell (
Date: Sat Jul 20 2002 - 19:29:16 EDT

Martin Kochanski <unicode at cardbox dot net> 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? Does
> any real software implement it? And how is a Windows program to cope
> if it already uses something like Ctrl+Shift+C as a keyboard shortcut?

As Alain LaBonté pointed out, "press and hold Ctrl+Shift" as the
beginning sequence and "release Ctrl+Shift" as the ending sequence is
just a suggestion. An application could implement different sequences
and still be conformant.

Martin has a good point, that different applications using completely
different beginning and ending sequences may all be conformant but do
not necessarily promote interoperability or reduce user confusion.
However, as Alain replied, at least the code sequence in between is
guaranteed to be Unicode and not some platform- or vendor-dependent code

Otto Stolz <Otto dot Stolz at uni dash konstanz dot de> wrote:

> Incidentally, the Omega is on the V key, and the final S on the W key
> (just above the S key). With a Greek layout on a Latin QWERTY
> keyboard, most keys are straightforward.

I deliberately chose a key that was not in an obvious spot. Once you
know the Greek keyboard generally follows QWERTY, most keys are indeed
straightforward. But as Otto continued, the same cannot be said for
Russian or some other keyboards (and Bulgarian Cyrillic is completely
different from Russian).

If Martin had originally specified Cyrillic a instead of Greek alpha,
the strategy of loading a Russian keyboard driver and instinctively
hitting the A key wouldn't have been quite so successful. (U+0430 is on
key C04, what we think of as the F key.) For best results, the user
should also have a diagram of the layout, or On-Screen Keyboard (which
isn't available with Win 9x).

> Therefore, I had mentioned both Charmap, and Insert/Symbol.
> the latter is a good example to follow, for other applications. (The
> Windows 95/9x/ME Charmap is not suitable; so an application will need
> its own input method, on these systems, if Windows alternate keyboard
> layouts are not feasable, for some reason.)
> It would probably a good idea for suppliers of application programs
> to mention in their user documentation both the Clipboard shortcuts,
> and the alternate keyboard layouts, and to point useres to more info
> on these topics.

It's *absolutely* a good idea to document multiple input methods --
obviously if the application provides its own methods, but even if it

Martin wrote:

> 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.

Naturally, "take your hands off the keyboard" would only work as an
ending sequence if the beginning sequence is some variation of "put your
hands on the keyboard and leave them there" (i.e. "hold down one or more
shifting keys").

> 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?

There's no reason an application can't simultaneously support
Microsoft's Alt+X method *and* all three methods specified by ISO 14755
(including Otto's on-screen "picking device") *and* user-installable
keyboards *and* any proprietary scheme the vendor might dream up.

Otto's suggestion of Unicode cut-and-paste support in all edit boxes
(controls, widgets) is also a good one, as long as cut-and-paste of
PLAIN TEXT is supported. You can always tell when a Word user, unable
to figure out how to type a-umlaut, has resorted to cutting and pasting
one from another document... in the wrong font. They usually don't
bother fixing the font, either, which makes the "foreign" character look
much more foreign than necessary.

-Doug Ewell
 Fullerton, California

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