Re: FYI: A new international keyboard layout based on the German standard layout

From: Jukka K. Korpela (
Date: Thu Jul 06 2006 - 01:29:02 CDT

  • Next message: Erkki Kolehmainen: "Re: FYI: A new international keyboard layout based on the German standard layout"

    On Wed, 5 Jul 2006, Doug Ewell wrote:

    > A major problem with trying to design a pan-European (or pan-Latin-script)
    > keyboard layout is that people in different cultures tend to prefer a layout
    > based on the one they are accustomed to. Broadly speaking, the English like
    > QWERTY, the French like AZERTY, the Germans like QWERTZ.

    Certainly, and this implies that e.g. the Finnish international keyboard
    is interesting to the rest of the world as an _approach_ rather than as
    a specific solution. The key idea, as I see it, is to use dead keys for
    diacritic marks rather than assign precomposed characters (letters with
    diacritic marks) positions of their own. Just as the Finnish international
    keyboard preserves , , in their old positions (with keys of their
    own), similar designs for other cultures can preserve or introduce
    positions for characters that have high frequency of use in the
    language(s) for which the setting is primarily designed.

    But using the dead key approach to all other diacritics gives much more
    freedom to assigning positions to other characters in an intuitive way.
    For example, we considered the possibility of assigning "s" with caron to
    Alt Gr s, because "s" with caron is officially part of Finnish orthography
    (though not common, and "sh" is often used instead). This would have been
    easier and somewhat more natural than using Alt Gr ' s (though we expect
    the latter to be more natural when new physical keyboards will have the
    caron engraved). Yet, this would have broken the uniformity and would have
    made it impossible to assign a natural position to the sharp s ().

    > For U.S. English, where single and double quotes can precede vowels,
    > keyboards that require the user to press the space bar between the two to
    > avoid dead-key behavior generally meet with some resistance.

    That's understandable. But the Finnish international keyboard has single
    and double quotes assigned to normal (non-dead) keys in Alt Gr or
    Shift Alt Gr positions, so no such problem arises.

    > For programmer
    > types, it gets worse as tildes and backquotes can also appear in "ordinary"
    > text.

    Quite right, and even non-programmers fairly often write the tilde
    (especially due to its use in URLs). We had some objections from
    programmers, but the problem really exists in the current Finnish and
    Swedish keyboard settings, and we have lived with it for a long time.
    Typing a tilde generally requires Shift Alt Gr diereris and a space, i.e.
    the use of four keys. It's inconvenient, but it's nothing new.

    On the other hand, programmers could design a keyboard setting suitable
    for programming, e.g. assigning tilde, backquote and circumflex to keys
    that do not act as dead keys. It might be useful, but it's an issue quite
    different from the design of a _general-purpose_ keyboard setting.

    Jukka "Yucca" Korpela,

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