Detecting ALTGR can only hope to work when AlTGR is in fact there....

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/09/08 04:36 -04:00, original URI:

Stu and I have a semi-regular debate going these days about an issue that I have covered a bunch of times in the past, for example in all of these posts:

and so on, you get the point.

Stu and I have gone around and around on this one, believe me.

I point out that is the biggest complaint we get from people having trouble with MSKLC-generated keyboards (at first they claim the AltGr and Shift+AltGr states don't work, then when we ask them try in Notepad they realize that the problem is they do not work in Word).

And he points out that no one seems to be complaining to the Word team on the issue.

So I point out that a lot of these people are creating keyboards so they assume that it is in the tool, first -- and then after I show them otherwise they figure it is a known issue.

And he points out that Word goes to tremendous effort to detect the CTRL+ALT vs. AltGr keystrokes so it can handle these two cases separately.

So I point out that not every key is convenient to shift with the right ALT key that is AltGr, so that some people need CTRL+ALT on the left side to do the same thing.

And he points out that most people don't even know about the CTRL+ALT method of getting at AltGr.

So I point out that not all keyboards have a right ALT key.

And he points out that he hasn't seen such a beast in a long time.

And so on....

Just recently I had a customer and regular reader named Fran who has been a big fan of my various MacBook Pro/Boot Camp posts remind me that my new favorite machine with the superior Vista experience:

has no Right Alt key on it. Doesn't that count?

Well, it certainly does count that it certainly has no Right ALT key:

(though I think the Input Remapper makes the Right Apple key into an AltGr key, which does not help my 64-bit Vista much since the Input Remapper does not work there yet, and not everyone actually uses the Input Remapper (which is not there for Parallels, for example).

I'll be honest, I have been using the MacBook Pro quite a bit lately. It is pretty much the only one I take to meetings where I need a computer and it might be the only one I take with me on vacation later this month.

Sometimes it is booted into Windows, sometimes into OS X.

All this time though, and it was even the machine I originally installed Boot Camp on to investigate the bug I talked about here, and I hadn't been looking at the Word issue (I hadn't even installed most of Office on Vista yet (I do have Mac Office on the Mac partition, does that count?).

Of course I don't always check out every issue on every machine, but in retrospect it seems like it was a pretty obvious thing to try out. :-)

Of course you can search on the web with simple keywords like Mac AltGr and see thousands of people pointing out the lack of the key and various workarounds, especially for people who are running Parallels or Boot Camp, and some of those pages point out that CTRL+ALT works just fine here.

Though there is that major caveat about using Word, of course....

I am going to install Word 2007 on the machine now, under both Vista 64 bit and Vista 32 bit. So I can test out the detection work in Word. I'll be sure to let everyone know what I find out.

And I know what I'll say to Stu next time I talk to him.... :-)


This post brought to you by (U+2235, a.k.a. BECAUSE)

# Jan Kučera on 8 Sep 2007 1:33 PM:

"...most people don't even know about the CTRL+ALT method of getting at AltGr"

Hmm.. I always thought that AltGr = Ctrl+Alt (unless the application makes appropriate effort to distinguish).

What is Word supposed to use AltGr but not Ctrl+Alt for?

# Michael S. Kaplan on 8 Sep 2007 2:33 PM:

The theory is AltGr for language, and CTRL+ALT for Word shortcuts.

# Gene on 9 Sep 2007 2:58 PM:

Wow, that keyboard looks like a misbegotten piece of crap. Did Apple hand that off to their most junior engineer?

What the hell possessed Apple to put the little orphaned "enter" key down there?

And what is the difference supposed to be between "enter" and "return" that you need two labels on the key?

And is "delete" mislabeled when it's actually "backspace"? At least it's in the position usually reserved for "backspace"

It seems to be Yet Another Crap Chiclet Laptop Keyboard with very little range of motion and no feedback, but this isn't unique to Apple.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 9 Sep 2007 3:23 PM:

The enter/return solves the problem of having some keyboards with one and some with the other, right? :-)

The mislabeled thing is relative -- it is mislabeled according to anyone coming from a PC who "knows" what delete means....

# Gene on 10 Sep 2007 2:50 PM:

> The mislabeled thing is relative -- it is mislabeled according to anyone coming from a PC who "knows" what delete means....

Hm. Good point. I Googled around and ran into which is rather long but also rather enlightening. Turns out I could be wrong here, because I've lived all my life in an xterm.

Now I've discovered why rxvt is different.

# passerby on 23 Dec 2008 3:17 AM:

I'm not sure this is the right place to ask... Is there a way to turn Vista64 so that it recognizes AltGr independently of [Ctrl + Alt]? I wan't to enjoy keyboard shortcuts with [Ctrl + Alt] and lose the ability to trigger them through AltGr. I wan't my AltGr to be used _solely_ for my foreign (native;-) characters.

Some keyboard layout, keyboard config program, registry hack, keyboard driver, physical keyboard product?

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referenced by

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

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

2007/11/28 There is more to being an OEM for Windows than having the coolest hardware

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

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