Get off my freaking key!

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/04/17 03:01 -04:00, original URI:

Regular readers may remember how I have complained in the past about the way Word interferes with key strokes on keyboards that are required for a given language.

I have long hoped that the folks over in Office would fix this issue.

After all, it is a pretty easy issue, conceptually -- if a particular key stroke combination is assigned in the current keyboard layout, then perhaps it should not be overrided to do some handy intuitive shortcut to functionality in Word, right?

But I just read a but from Jensen Harris's blog such as these three posts, and it is clear that a ton of thought has gone into all kinds of exciting new stuff like better documentation of shortcuts, work to support the old accelerators (though I wonder how that works in localized product!?), and KeyTips and such. But as far as I can tell, no one decided to fix simple problem of "get off my freaking key!" for other language keyboards.

I mean, it is all well and good to say:

We've also used the data from the Customer Experience Improvement Program to track down the most frequently-used features without good keyboard shortcuts so that we could add them. For instance, you'll find CTRL+ALT+V added for Paste Special.

But I have wonder if sufficient data came from where > 60% of the customer base comes from. After all, if you are using the Czech, Croatian, Serbian, Slovenian, or Hungarian keyboard layouts, than CTRL+ALT+V is also ALTGR+V, and that is the keystroke combination you use to get the @, a pretty important character for email addresses. So you won't even be able to send email to Microsoft to complain about this bit of keystroke hijacking. :-(

Which is not to say that the folks using the Syriac or Divehi keyboard layouts (where it is U+200d, the ZERO WIDTH JOINER), are going to be much happier.

And that is just one keystroke. Reading Jensen's words about the research that went into the issue, I am sure there are others that may be just as useful to some (and just as problematic for others!).

Admittedly, it can be hard to interrogate a keyboard for all that information. But after posting almost an entire series on the issue (most recent post here), all of which is based on calling publicly available Win32 API functions, it is obvious that the information is out there now. And come to think about it, that it always has been out there (though perhaps not as well documented!).

So now my plea to the folks in Office -- please fix the this bug, which has become the #1 bug affecting the usability of multilingual keyboards....

(Or, if it has been fixed but no one has told anyone yet -- please get the word out!)

Alternately, I'll probably have to finish that add-in I have been working on and off for the last few years to do the job for them at some point. Perhaps that can be a new part for the series? :-)


This post brought to you by "@" (U+0040, a.k.a. COMMERCIAL AT)

# Ben Cooke on 19 Apr 2006 2:55 AM:

It seems to me that a simplistic solution to get them started would be to stop using Ctrl+Alt (and AltGr) for keyboard shortcuts completely. I'm sure there are keyboard layouts that use other modifier keys, but a large number of them use AltGr to get at extended characters. Putting application keyboard shortcuts on AltGr is just asking for trouble.

(Of course, they should also keep off Ctrl+Alt+Shift/AltGr+Shift, which really just leaves them with Alt and Alt+Shift. But I think that's okay since Alt's been used for shortcut keys in dialogs for yonks.)

# Michael S. Kaplan on 19 Apr 2006 3:07 AM:

Well, at this point they have the backcompat issue of all the people who do like the shortcuts, and are used to them. :-(

So I'd be just as happy to see them notice when the keyboard layout has assignment and then if it does it respects that assignment....

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referenced by

2012/04/26 Michael's Keyboard Laws for Developers, Part 5

2008/07/04 The key to key messages is a key contribution

2008/01/20 NOT MEDICALLY NECESSARY per, by their own description, non-medical people

2008/01/17 Virtual PC + Word 2007 ≠ AltGr support?

2007/11/16 Detecting ALTGR fails when ALTGR isn't there (Just Czech-ed out in Word 2007)

2007/09/08 Detecting ALTGR can only hope to work when AlTGR is in fact there....

2007/07/18 Sometimes they are not as helpful shortcuts

2007/03/05 You're not the one out of sequence, and that's the Word

2006/11/25 Even if they aren't talking international, at least they aren't stomping international!

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