From: Jukka K. Korpela (email@example.com)
Date: Thu Oct 26 2006 - 07:09:13 CST
On Thu, 26 Oct 2006, Andrew West wrote:
> On 26/10/06, Otto Stolz <Otto.Stolz@uni-konstanz.de> wrote:
>> For me (German UI), this works only in WordPad.
>> In Word, however, Alt-x opens the Tools menu (which is
>> termed "Extras", in German).
> This shows how problematic it is to use alt keys for functionality
> other than menu shortcuts.
I would say that the use of Alt-x is comparable to a menu shortcut (it's
a method of activating a function using the keyboard), and the basic
problem is actually the potential clash between shortcuts defined by
different sources. For example, the use of so-called accesskeys on web
pages has generally been found a bad idea, since site-specific accesskey
assignments inevitable clash with _some_ assignments in _some_ browsers.
Thus, even if we used Alt keys _only_ for shortcuts to commands that
appear as text in the user interface, we would still have conflicts -
unless the use of Alt keys were always restricted, in any given context,
to a single set of Alt key assignments from one source.
Menu shortcuts often _try_ to be mnemonic in the sense that
the letters used in them are initial letters of menu commands.
This actually fails quite often, since the natural localizations of menu
commands result in commands that start with the same letter, so the
shortcuts use letters picked up from command words in a rather
unintuitive manner. This implies that we cannot really expect any letter
to be "free" for Alt key assignments, in the sense that it could have some
global meaning that is never disturbed by any application. Yet, in
practice, I would strongly suggest leaving Alt x alone, i.e. no
application should assign a meaning to it (under Windows, that is).
> I customised my English Word 2003 to have
> an Exit menu (with "x" as the shortcut key), and I found that if I
> press Alt+x (holding both keys at the same time) I get the
> Unicode-to-hex conversion, but if I press and release Alt (which
> highlights the menu) then press "x", it activates the Exit menu.
In some situations, these is a difference between Alt-x (or Alt+x or
whatever notation you use) and Alt x (using Alt and x keys in succession).
But this gets pretty confusing, so I would just using a different
assignment, like Alt-q for quit, if I wanted to have shortcut for Exit.
Regarding a situation where Alt-x has a program-specific assignment, in
some program and in some localization, you could either change that
assignment to something else, or define a different shortcut for the
function that changes a number to a Unicode character. The settings of
these shortcuts is somewhat confusing in Word (to me at least), but I'm
sure the problem that a localization-specific assignment "masks out" the
general Alt-x functionality can be fixed.
I just realized that there's also a button for the operation that can be
added to Word toolbar. The icon contains letter "A", the code "x41" as
gray text , and a two-way arrow between them. Be prepared to seeing a
strange name for the operation, because a localizer may have missed the
point completely. (In the Finnish version of Word, the name, back-translated
into English, is: "Take the character set into use, or remove it from
use". :-) )
-- Jukka "Yucca" Korpela, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/
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