Re: Dead keys

From: Wulfy (
Date: Sat Sep 24 2005 - 12:08:57 CDT

  • Next message: Chris Jacobs: "Re: Dead keys"

    Jukka K. Korpela wrote:

    > On Sat, 24 Sep 2005, Wulfy wrote:
    >> Why do we have to put up with a limitation of mechanical typewriters
    >> on computer keyboards?
    > Computer keyboards as physical devices evolved from mechanical
    > typewriters, and there are many remains of the original design. On
    > the other hand, any change, no matter how rational, would upset
    > many people. We learn to use our keyboards without looking much at the
    > individual keys, or the keyboard as a whole. (Even _I_ learned that,
    > and I never attended a course in typing.) Therefore, changing the
    > position of just one key, or removing an unnecessary key, would
    > disturb a lot and cause resistance.

    But no key would be removed. All the "dead" keys would produce the
    character that is on them.

    > Different composition methods, using Alt, Alt Gr, Ctrl, and other
    > special keys, are a different issue, but related. I'm afraid many
    > people, including people who would really need to use nice composition
    > methods, are unaware of the functionality they can use on their
    > keyboard. There might be no indication of the dead keys being somehow
    > special, so intuitively they look like unnecessary odd symbols
    > (comparable to "").

    My idea was not to completely replace the keyboard maps (as in removing
    the originals entirely) but to give a new option which would have to be
    chosen. Those who want to, would know they'd have to relearn the way to
    produce the modified characters.

    > It might be useful to show dead keys as somehow different - perhaps
    > with a dotted ring symbolizing a generic base character, as in one
    > presentation of combining diacritic marks, or in a different color.
    > But this might confuse, especially if the same key acts as a normal
    > key as such but as a dead key when used e.g. with Alt Gr. Moreover,
    > dead keys might be scattered around the keyboard. For example, it
    > would be relatively natural to make key with the comma "," act as a
    > dead key when used with Alt Gr. But having dead keys all around is
    > confusing before you learn to use each of them. Such allocations
    > might be the least of evils if the keyboard is fixed to what it is now.

    Since the accent key would follow the <compose>key, it would only be
    "dead" in the sense that it produced the combining character, all other
    times, it would produce what is on the key. Someone mentioned the case
    when typing a URL <> (or some such) and
    the dead "~" produced an e-tilde, rather than a "~e". This couldn't
    happen on my proposed map... to get e-tilde, you'd have to *want* to do
    it... <compose>e~.

    > Ideally, dead keys should appear in a row separate from the main set
    > of keys. The problem is that we already have several separate sets
    > (which might be useful to some people, unused by some) and a fairly
    > large number of keys.

    There would be no change to the physical layout of the keyboard. The
    only difference is, that the keys would always produce the character on
    the key cap unless they followed the <compose>letter combination.

    >> On my UK keyboard, I can only produce the acute accents easily, they
    >> are <AltGr>vowel combinations. I have to resort to <Alt>xxxx on the
    >> numeric keypad, use a character map or change keyboard map (which
    >> changes all the positions for my punctuation and sometimes other
    >> keys) to get any other accented character or ligature. As I write
    >> essays which contain Old English or Old Norse words, getting "",
    >> "", and "" and their capitals is quite difficult.
    >> Surely there is a better solution? Perhaps a <compose> key?
    > It's hard to tell what should be done with keyboards and keyboard
    > settings in general, but in practical terms, the best solution is
    > often to handle things in a word processor. Of course this limits the
    > solution
    > to a particular writing environment. But you can do quite a many
    > things rather easily be defining macros, or perhaps "automatic
    > corrections", so that you can write, say, "" by typing Ctrl-& a, or
    > by typing "ae". You could then select, within some limits, methods
    > that you find natural in a particular environment, perhaps even using
    > different settings for different types of documents.

    I know it's possible to do it that way. It's just that I think you
    shouldn't need to use a word processor to produce plain text.

    Wulf Credo:
    Respect the elders. Teach the young. Co-operate with the pack. 
    Play when you can. Hunt when you must. Rest in between.
    Share your affections. Voice your opinion. Leave your Mark.

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sat Sep 24 2005 - 12:10:24 CDT