Keyboard UI in setup hoist by its own petard?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/08/03 09:01 -04:00, original URI:

It does not always pay to be clear and unambiguous. Sometimes, the lack of clarity can be helpful....

Here is an example of this.

If you have not installed Vista, you can probably see many of the screen shots of the installation process in the various betas. One of the early dialogs looks something like this (you can find this and various permutations on the internet):

Basically you get a choice of installation language, formats, and keyboard layout.

It causes an interesting problem, truth be told -- because previously the actual keyboard layout name was hidden from everyone other than the few people who opened up the Language Bar settings dialog (shown here on XP):

So previously, most people (starting in XP) would only ever see the language and would never see the layout. Because the act of setting the user locale would add a keyboard layout. And the Language Bar would usually only show the language.

For example if you changed your system locale to Dutch, you would have a keyboard added that looked like Dutch according to the Language Bar. But secretly, it was installing something very different (which you can see if you look at that settings dialog):

US International? Huh?

It's true. The fact is that few people like the "Dutch" keyboard. The differences get pretty substantial in short order if you look at them side by side:





Anyway, if you look at various sites on the web like this one, you'll see what I mean. Of course as far as I can tell, the "United States (International)" keyboard is not that well thought of either, but it is in most cases considered better than the Dutch one.

But think back to the XP situation -- most people don't realize it.

So what happens in this new setup UI in Vista? Suddenly they see "United States (International)" for the keyboard, and assume that this is some kind of US Imperialism feature added to Vista, and a clear regression since the keyboard always used to claim to be Dutch.

You can see it here, with a sort of pseudo locale sort of thing going on as well:

And the obvious question that the person is asking -- why is this keyboard my default all of the sudden? Even if they simply never realized it was their default all along....

So the new and arguably clearer UI in setup is hoist by its own petard -- the very attempt to provide clarity has revealed an issue that was previously well-served by the obfuscation of the platform!

Ah well, it will be knowledge, which is power. And people throughout the Netherlands (and other places) will learn this lesson, within zero to one calls to product support.

And this is (in my humble opinion) a bug, or at least a small design flaw in the new, clearer UI.

I'd argue that we should tell people about this to avoid paying for the support call, but of course if we tell them then they don't need to call.

Maybe someone in PSS could put in a Vista KB article that calls it a bug? :-)


This post brought to you by (U+20ac, a.k.a. EURO SIGN)

# Ruben on 3 Aug 2006 3:47 PM:

I actually used to own such a Dutch keyboard. I believe only IBM made them. But, IIRC, before Windows 2000, MS used to select the Dutch keyboard layout, even though hardly anyone in the Netherlands actually has such a keyboard.

So, yes, the US International keyboard layout is practical, if only because it supports inputting diacritics on a standard US keyboard. Dutch uses several, most notably the dieresis ('trema', not to be confused with the 'umlaut') and acute accent. And no, people do not like Alt-123 codes.

But linguistically, the Dutch keyboard layout must be one of the more reasonable QUERTY layouts I have come across, and it serves many Western European languages (except the Scandinavian ones). Alas, it never supported the ƒ sign. (When the guilder hadn't been replaced by the euro yet, that seemed rather odd for a Dutch keyboard.)

You should really feel sorry for the Flemish; they've got to put up with what's probably the most horrid variant of AZERTY man has ever dreamt up. (I know, as I'm working for a Belgian firm, and occasionally have to sit behind one of these contraptions. Eek. And it is not geared to either Dutch or English, just to French. Which is usually the last thing the Flemish want to think about.)

# Mike Dimmick on 4 Aug 2006 8:52 AM:

(Tries to remember if I've made this comment before...)

I was trying out the United Kingdom - Extended keyboard layout in Windows XP. Even being a programmer I rarely use the backquote ` so in normal usage there was nearly no difference between the standard and extended layout. I'd added the new layout as the default under the English (United Kingdom) language. However, I started to see strange behaviour - on entering a new text box it would often act as if the ` dead key had been pressed, so when typing a Y I'd get Ỳ.

It might have been something to do with Virtual Server, because I was using some virtual machines at the time, and I still have the default 'Right Alt' set as the host key (which I've said before is a poor default for almost all of the world outside the USA). I can't imagine that I'd have actually pressed the backquote key since the other two characters on it are ¬ and ¦, which I never use either.

On using Remote Desktop to connect to other systems, I'd find that the destination computer - running either Windows XP SP2 or Windows Server 2003 - would decide that I actually wanted the Welsh language rather than English UK. I therefore switched back to the standard UK layout, and I'll have to use CharMap if I want extended accented characters (beyond áéíóúÁÉÍÓÚ).

# dmanchester on 4 Aug 2006 4:09 PM:


In that second screenshot of the Vista installation, what's going on with the window title and the "Enter your language..." text? Are those placeholders for yet-to-be-localized text? Does the use of Cyrillic and Greek in the placeholders help confirm fields' Unicode compatibility?


# Michael S. Kaplan on 4 Aug 2006 4:18 PM:

Hi Dan,

I mentioned a psuedo kind of thing was going on.... you can read more about psuedo locales here.

# dmanchester on 4 Aug 2006 4:43 PM:


Thanks for the link--very interesting. So that pseudo-locale data will be available in shipped versions of Vista? I foresee some evil pranks coming out of that, on par with slapping this on an unsuspecting colleague's PC:


# Michael S. Kaplan on 4 Aug 2006 4:44 PM:

I'll probably post about the interesting things about pseudos, some time soon. :-)

referenced by

2012/05/23 The relationship between the 'United States - International' keyboard layout and the Euro....

2008/01/30 A more usable Dutch keyboard that works properly?

2007/06/17 The built-in attempt to support multi-monolingual keyboards is kinda broken

2006/08/16 Walking off the end of the eighth bit

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