Macedonian keyboard updates in Vista

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/09/14 04:16 -04:00, original URI:

Srgjan asks:

Hello Mr Kaplan,

I don't know if you remember but I've tried to raise this issue the last time you've made an interview on Channel9. If you don't, I was complaining that under XP the macedonian keyboard layout availible was not mapping some characters specificly:

Cyrillic capital and small letter IE with grave ( È - I'm using the latin version here, I think it's 0400 and 0450 unicode)

Cyrillic capital and small letter I with grave (I think it's 040D and 045D unicode)

and I also proposed that it would be handled like the english international keyboard where one can write the accent `and later the letter e and would get è. You told me you'd pass this on to your manager so I am just inquiring if the idea catched on. I'm sorry I haven't been able to check out the Vista Beta yet (I should as I'm a developer but no free time). I know that this looks like a small thing but I belive these small things justify the effort and improve the end's user experience more than the effort involved to cover the use case. It's an ecosystem and these things spin off other things as well like hardware support.

Thanks and cheers.


I definitely remember Srgjan, and anyone who looks at the first Channel 9 appearance I did can see the conversation on the download page about the missing characters Srgjan refers to.

And I happy to report that Vista includes an updated keyboard based I believe on the Macedonian National standard, and here it is:

And if you look at the 102 key, you'll see that they added U+0400 and U+0450 to the layout right there!

Now if you run MSKLC on Vista and load the keyboard up, you can hover over the 102 key to see the warning that you get when you assign something only on the 102 key:

But it is of course not up to Microsoft to tell standards bodies in governments what to do (it is also unlikely to be a priority in a country to design a layout to work well in another country that does not include all of the same keys!).

Now MSKLC will also give you a warning in its validation:

    WARNING: 'ѐ' defined on OEM_102 (Base) but not defined elsewhere. This key may not be present on all keyboards.
    WARNING: 'Ѐ' defined on OEM_102 (Shift) but not defined elsewhere. This key may not be present on all keyboards.

But, to explain why the dead key mechanism Srgjan suggested was not used, this is an area where it is usually not a good idea to innovate when there is an established behavior -- because people are unlikely to really be willing to learn a new behavior.

And dead keys are really only present at all as a legacy behavior for people who learned to type their language on typewriters -- even Unicode encodes characters and combining characters in the opposite order that dead keys type them....

But at least the characters have been added now, right? :-)

You can check it out on any sort of Vista build you might have....


This post brought to you by Ѐ and ѐ (U+0400 and U+0450, a.k.a. CYRILLIC CAPITAL LETTER IE WITH GRAVE and CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER IE WITH GRAVE)

# ReallyEvilCanine on 14 Sep 2006 8:55 AM:

And dead keys are really only present at all as a legacy behavior for people who learned to type their language on typewriters -- even Unicode encodes characters and combining characters in the opposite order that dead keys type them.

Dead keys may function in a legacy manner but coding their usage is trivial, whereas typing the diacritical mark after the letter would force the renderer to back up and change a characater. While people could easily get used to typing the dead key after it's base character just as they normally write by hand, this would look awful on the screen for people who touch-type and watch character after character change.

By the way, that "you only use 10% of your brain" is a crock, conveniently leaving off "at any instant for a given task." Loada codswallop, that.

Finally, the only good infusion is the kind you get when you leave fruit sitting in vodka for a few weeks.

# RubenP on 14 Sep 2006 5:27 PM:

'Legacy support' is pretty much a misnomer. There's so little software that *really* supports Unicode, especially in the department of combining characters. (Browsers and Office-apps not included.)

Apps defaulting to ANSI are a source of pain. (Notepad! It doesn't even try some normalization. But then again, which app does?) Or apps sticking to ANSI at all costs. The command line also comes to mind (even with codepage 65001).

But then again, apart from you already declaring the command line legacy, I have no idea how a terminal-style display should treat combining characters. I don't think it can handle them at all, ever, by it's very nature. (Lines becoming shorter than their visible width, and the display no longer being columnar in nature and all. The support for cp 65001 still has me puzzled, though.)

So rather than legacy, we should probably talk of painful reality.

# Charles Bocock on 15 Sep 2006 5:46 AM:

Talking of seeing character-after-character changing, I once saw someone typing in Japanese and it looked pretty crazy.

From what I could see it appeared that as they typed kana on the keyboard it would constantly compress several kana down to a kanjii character. So, every few characters that they typed, the line would suddenly jump back, their characters would disappear and a kanjii would appear in it's place.

It looked totally bizarre to me, as I'm used to really only ever using plain latin characters that stay where they are as I type ;)

# Michael S. Kaplan on 15 Sep 2006 5:51 AM:

That is the way the Japanese IME works, Charles!

# ReallyEvilCanine on 15 Sep 2006 8:18 AM:

So I'm UNLIKELY, am I? Harumph!

Charles: What Michael said. I'm used to seeing that in JPN and CHS/CHT, but it's not a behaviour Westerners are used to seeing, nor would they be comfortable with it. Some programs come with built-in IMEs. You can take NJStar's word processors for a trial spin for free and see how they handle it.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 15 Sep 2006 10:36 AM:

Just the name, just the name. :-)

# Michael S. Kaplan on 15 Sep 2006 11:02 AM:

See also this page for an example of when it happens even in latin script. :-)

# hhk on 17 Sep 2006 12:47 AM:

And dead keys are really only present at all as a legacy behavior for people who learned to type their language on typewriters

I don't get it. You say that keyboards should have __all__ accented characters that are needed for a given language?? It sounds weird to me, since dead keys are very practical in my opinion... It's a shame that the allowed combinations are limited (e.g.: you can only put a ~ over "a", "o", or "n", since only those combinations exist in Portuguese (ã,õ) and Spanish (ñ)).

# Michael S. Kaplan on 17 Sep 2006 1:40 AM:

Not at all, hhk.

I am saying that the notion of extending dead keys into markets where they are not used NOW is a bad idea. They are a legacy technology for dealing with a legacy situation of people used to what typewriters do. There is no interest in extending their functionality or introducing them to places that do not use them now.

What they do will continue to be possible, but that's all.

# Srgjan Srepfler on 17 Sep 2006 9:34 AM:

Hi Mich,
First of all thanks for paying attention, it's a small thing but I guess it's the small details that count. That said I've checked out Windows Vista RC1. There are already two macedonian keyboards listed. The first is "Macedonian (FYROM)" and the other "Macedonian (FYROM) - Standard". I have noticed the Standard will feature the accented I and E but the other will not (I guess it's the legacy keyboard?).
First of all the second one features the letter U+0401 on the 102nd key and there is no U+0401 character in the macedonian language (would that classify as a bug?).
Second is an alternative suggestion on how you might offer the accented I and E letters to users that have keyboards without the 102 key and without the dead keys - the ALT GR key! If MS add's to the ALT GR mapping an accented I and E over the normal I and E (and also for the uppercase ALT GR + SHIFT) then the letters would be availible to the other 98% of people that still have keyboards without 102 letters. Also, this is a behaviour that must be done with intent, didn't exist before, and doesn't add the "why doesn't my accent show after I press it?" factor that the deadkeys introduce. All in all a much better solution, what do you say?
This said there is a problem. While the keyboard layout creator shows these positions as free on the Standard keyboard on the other the E is overlapped with the euro sign. Question, where is the euro sign on the Standard keyboard? Macedonia is bordering the euro zone and it uses the euro extensively, more than the US$. I would definitly classify this as a bug.
Personally I'd preffer the euro as ALT GR over the 5 (as I have the euro sign written as an ALT GR on the keyboard I own and it's free on the layout) and accented E and I over the normal E and I.
Adding the letter to a new key is great but mapping also the letters to a key that we actually have would be fabulous! Am I asking too much? I mean that's why we have the Vista beta programs no?
PS. I'm writing this with Vista. Nice, nice...

# Michael S. Kaplan on 17 Sep 2006 9:51 AM:

That is indeed the purpose of the beta, but of course I am not a beta contact (so feedback to me is not really the same thing as beta feedback in most cases).

With that said, the legacy keyboard that existed before could not be changed.

But the new keyboard is (according to subsidiary contacts) based on a standard and thus is notr a place that Microsoft is going to create new and innovative keyboard strategies. And even if we were, we do not (as I point out here) going to add the feature of dead keys to places that do not have it, Dead keys ONLY exist in places that have them as a matter of what the market expects, and in the case where we are leveraging a standard, only when the standard requests them. Which is not the case here....

# Srgjan Srepfler on 17 Sep 2006 11:40 AM:

Can you tell me please who are the subsidiary contacts or how can I contact them? Do you count the ALT GR alternative as a deadkey approach? Would you think it might be a valid solution to people that don't have the 102 key?
This is very much a chicken and egg problem and my fears are that many people didn't manage to push all the letters in all these decades that we use computers in Macedonia and it has become a chronic ache. People just look their immediate interests or self promotion and things don't get solved. I'm not a person that likes to rant but why in 2006 does my mother sends me a word document written with a Mac C Times font when we have full unicode support in Windows for a long time now?!? As long as Windows doesn't ship a fully functional keyboard people will not use it, as long as people don't use it no one will find a reason to fix it or develop solutions for it.
My hunch is that the standard the keyboard was based on was written even before the euro was introduced.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 17 Sep 2006 1:02 PM:

It is not a valid solution if it is not in the standard that is the basis for the keyboard. Perhaps an update of the standard will add the key in a way that is not incompatible with the keyboard?

We do not innovate in the keyboard layout space. Though customers can -- which is why MSKLC is avasilable for you here....

# Srgjan Srepfler on 17 Sep 2006 8:03 PM:

I understand Mich, thanks for listening at least!
A part from the accented letters issue, do you however agree that the missing euro sign is a bug?

# Michael S. Kaplan on 17 Sep 2006 8:10 PM:

Well, it is not what I'd expect. Though standards often hamper us. :-(

# Srgjan Srepfler on 18 Sep 2006 4:31 AM:

Can you confirm your subsidiary contact about the keyboard layout would be Login Systems?

# Michael S. Kaplan on 18 Sep 2006 7:56 AM:

I do not know who/what Login Systems is, so I cannot confirm this?

# Srgjan Srepfler on 18 Sep 2006 2:15 PM:

Login Systems ( was perhaps the first  MS partner in Macedonia and became the authorised distributor of Microsoft’s products. It might even be that the boss knows some of the heads of MS that have a name that starts with the letter B (it's a small country, you hear a lot of stuff, but it's only hearsay :))) )
Anyhow thank you very much Mich and I hope I didn't usurpate your space or time. I guess I'll have to use the keyboard editor. Will there be a .Net framework 2.0 version coming out soon? I had problems installing the 1.1 Framework on Vista.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 18 Sep 2006 2:55 PM:

Hi Srgjan --

See here for info on how to fix the problem of installing on Vista...

# Mar on 21 Sep 2006 8:51 PM:

This layout isn't very impressive. It's convulted, has no Euro sign, a letter on a key which the people who want the use the layout don't have / 102nd key requirement + small shiftkey annoyance, the 2 Serbian letters aren't there anymore which is an annoyance in a number of ways. I dont think it's likely more than a handful of these keyboards will be put into production, if any.

The best reponse to it would be for technically-minded Macedonians to congregate to design a saner layout under public review on the internet and ask their government to make it the new standard before Vista ships.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 21 Sep 2006 9:11 PM:

Hi Mar,

It is too late to get something into Vista before it ships. But the old keyboard is still there for those who prefer it....

Vladimir on 2 Mar 2011 7:42 PM:

1. This Macedonian (FYROM) - Standard layout is definitely more complete and convenient than the old "Macedonian (FYROM)" one. However, I think there's a need for an alternative layout, since most of Macedonian users, as myself, are used to the US layout alignment of the punctuation marks. So I find Macedonian (FYROM) - Standard pretty useless for me, because I switch between languages every time I want to type a punctuation mark, which is irritating. This is the reason why I made my own keyboard layout using the MSKLC, but I think there should definitely be added one or two alternative Macedonian layouts to the Windows OS. The old Macedonian (FYROM) layout is now irrelevant, since it is now an outdated version of the new "Macedonian (FYROM) - Standard" layout. The alternative layouts could introduce the use of AltGr for less frequently used letters, such as Ѕ (it's the Cyrillic letter Dz) or letters that look alike, such as Л/Љ (Latin L), К/Ќ (Latin K), and especially Е/Ѐ (Latin E) and И/Ѝ (Latin I), which are NOT separate letters. This way there would be left space for the frequently used punctuation marks to be left where most Macedonian users are used to find. First thing first: realignment of the punctuation marks and the letters stay where they are in the "Standard" layout. Less frequently used punctuation marks can always be left under the AltGr key. The second alternative: realignment of the punctuation marks and more convenient and user-friendly alignment of the letters, including the AltGr option in some cases.

2. Has anybody ever initiated for a Macedonian LATIN script keyboard layout to be made for Windows? This should also be done.

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