Re: emulating keyboards with more keys

From: Philippe Verdy <>
Date: Fri, 11 Jan 2013 19:47:56 +0100

2013/1/11 Stephan Stiller <>

> Correction:
>> Canadian French keyb[oa]rd layout (this is the one that lets you directly
>> type the most letters among those used for the French language)
> I need to take this back. I first didn't find the dead key for ˊ, but it's
> not needed anyways there. The Canadian Multilingual Standard is better
> (even for French only).

Yes the Canadian Multilingual keyboard is very well designed, except that
it exists only in a QWERTY layout, with digits now shifted, and as such,
not easy to use on a typical French keyboard with AZERTY layout shifted
digits (the Shift-loack vs. Capslock difference is not a dramatic issue, as
both keyboards can be tuned to adopt one or the other design: in a typical
French keyboard, CAPSLOCK is unlocked automatically when you press SHIFT).

Most leyouts are usable on a 102/105 key keyboard, except the Japanese
layout which requires another key.
Today, most keyboards also include other keys like the Menu key, which
should be configurable to something else (like Fn key+PrintScreen, as found
on Logitech keyboards that don't have a standalone Menu key between AltGr
and Fn).
Most PC keyboards also have a Windows key shuld should be configurable to
something else.
If we could remap the Windows key or Menu key to emulate the extra key to
emulate the missing Japanese key it would be marvelous, but MSKLC (for
Windows) still does not support this, so you end up with creating your own
keyboard driver. On Linux, you have better control on how special keys are
mapped. This means that to be able to type Japanese with its native layout,
you'll need an extra keyboard.

Anyway, keyboards are now very cheap and easy to add to your environment
(most PCs have a plethora of USB connectors to allow this, and you can
perfectly connect multiple keyboards on your PC, even with a single
wireless receptor).

The main difficulty remains to find a hardware keyboard with a native
Japanese layout outside Japan. I don't understand why most international
keyboards (any layouts: QWERTY, QWERTZ or AZERTY) don't provide this extra
key, even if it's not used with conventional layouts (Manufacturers could
still allow customizing their keyboard drivers to map some function on this
extra key when we are not using a Japanse layout). Still some manufacturers
(like Acer) include some other extra keys on their notebooks that are
alsmost not needed (for example a "$" and "€" key, which also have their
standard assignment on the conventional layouts, eg. on the French keyboard
between P and the Enter key for the $/£ key, or AltGr+E for the Euro key).

Why cannot manufacturers implement blank keys that are remappable as we
want on keyboards according to our preferences ? They still prefer mapping
static functions on them (and here I don't speak about the many keys that
are generally added for Media controls or PC functions, such as Media
Player keys : Play, Previous track, Next track or to launch specific
applications like Calc, or the Internet browser, or the Media Player, or
the Media Center, or Word, Excel, or the Calendar application ; or keys to
play with windows such as Full screen, Cascade, Tile; or keys to play with
audio/display settings or energy : many manufacturers implemet these keys
as standalone of with a combination based on the Fn key plus another key ;
some are choosing arbitrarily to map the Menu key on Fn+PrintScreen, just
to remove a key on the lower row and to enlarge the space bar, this is
generally not needed, and the Menu key still has enough space to fit
without reducing the space bar).

But at least if we are given a large choice between various keyboards, most
of them are too conservative, and not enough programmable (notably for keys
on the lower row around the space bar).

OK having keys with a LCD display on top of all keys would have a cost, and
stickers are ugly very fast. But having at least one row of programmable
keys just below a LCD display showing their programming, would be very
convenient and a more function keys should be programmable independantly of
the basic layout : users may not want two Ctrl keys, or would want to
assign the second Alt key as AltGr, or map the Second Shift key to a menu
key (this may cause problems in some games that require two shift keys, but
most games have a keyboard remapping preference screen, and we are not
really speaking about internationalization for supporting languages in such
applications where keys are preferably mapped according to their physical
placement on the keyboard rather than what characters they are mapped to).

Another common issue with keyboards on notebooks is that they frequently
have a numeric keypad, but still their BIOS do not allow setting this
keypad in Numlock mode by default. So when you reboot your OS and need to
type digits on your logon screen yoy always need to type first the Numlock
key. This is stupid : Numlock should be enabled by default, notably if the
BIOS does not contain any option to set this preference (and Windows itself
does not include any easy option to Numlock On by default on the Logon
screen... Microsoft insists, stupidly, that this should be enabled by the
BIOS, but most BIOSes do not have this option!)

Most manufacturers in fact do not care much about real internationalization
needs and what users do expect : they design things that are working well
and are tested only in their own locale. And they don't learn what users
are saying to them, producing new PCs or notebooks with ugly keyboard
layouts, or with keys that will almost never be used. Why don't they make
now a 106/109 key layout for every one (even if the extra key initially has
no assignment outside Japan) is a mystery for me. And why don't they map
very common functions like Copy/Cut/Paste on a single key instead of using
CTRL+C/X/V on PC keyboards or Option+C/X/V on MacOS ?
Received on Fri Jan 11 2013 - 12:50:27 CST

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