To some, the name might be the WRONG SINGLE QUOTATION MARK

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/08/07 10:01 -04:00, original URI:

In the last item in the Suggestion Box as of the time I wrote this blog, Gé van Gasteren asked in comments to A more usable Dutch keyboard that works properly?, over here and here:

Thanks, Michael, for giving me the full treatment! Interestingly, the great job you did would look great in the MSKLC documentation, but 99% of it was wasted on me, because I had gone through all that, whereas 1% (one little remark) suggested a possible solution -- or as close to a solution as practically possible.

But first re. the problem: What you describe certainly looks like it should work, and it does in Test Keyboard Layout. But when I generate the installer and actually install the layout, I get the problem I mentioned in my post: The quote key stops working as a dead key and produces two curly quotes with each keystroke.

This does not happen when I don't assign U+2019 to it but the spacing acute U+00B4, possibly because that one is in the ASCII range (as I mentioned in a later post, added as a comment to the first suggestion).

So if you have really installed the layout you created in your post and it worked correctly for you, there is something wrong with my XP setup, or the thing only works properly in Vista, or whatever.

Now for the brilliant 1%:

First you talk about switching off that 'brilliant quotes' feature, and right after that about calling product support. I guess that latter bit would be a long shot, a tall order, and what not.

But that gave me this idea, much easier to implement and to get consent for:

Microsoft should ship all Dutch-language software packages with the default for the smart quotes feature set to "disabled". Tadaa!

This simple measure would make all non-typographs produce straight quotes ' and " when typing. Not beautiful, but correct. Those interested in typography would switch the feature ON, and would usually (hopefully...!) be interested enough to use the proper curly quotes in the special cases I mentioned.

The only wish after that would be to have U+2019 more easily available, e.g. on Alt-Gr-quote. But I think you wrote somewhere that existing layouts are never (never!) changed, so I'll learn to live with that.

So how to make such a suggestion to product support and make it stick?


Reading the series about Table Driven Text Service, there may be a better way (now or soon) to implement smart quotes:

If it is possible for applications to switch such tables on and off, there could be a setting in an application called "Convert quotes", with options "On", "Let me choose", and "Off".

A Dutch-language application could have "Let me choose" as the default, and at typing a quote, a choice box with ‘  ’ and ' could pop up.

I'm not sure I understood it rightly (after reading all ten installments in one session, my brain is a bit frazzled by the Chinglish) that several tables can be active simultaneously and on top of each other like CSSes (e.g. one for auto-correcting, one for quotes, one user-defined, etc.) but that seems necessary to make this kind of switching practical.

And, apart from making the "smart quotes" smarter, this approach has the advantage that it is customizable!

Okay, first I'll start by pointing out that in the only version of the keyboard lyout I can still find on my machine that I was playing with, I did not have U+2019 defined on the key itself.

Though I did have it as the spacing version of the character at the bottom of the dead key table, as you can see here:

So it may be that when I thought I was saying that there was no bug here that there may be one -- I cannot keep from getting two ’ (U+2019) characters if I define the dead key on U+2019.

Anyway, as I typed I was getting the right character showing up, so I was pretty much paying the most attention to that.

Which points to the definite workaround -- in fact, though I did not change the "name" on the dead key, MSKLC supports changing it -- even to RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK, if you like -- so you can make it anything you like and essentially never even see that the character ever, except in the people who are looking at WM_DEADCHAR messages, or calling functions like ToUnicode/ToUnicodeEx.

For the most part, this means nobody. :-)

The bug leads to the title of this blog, and the pseudo-rename of U+2019 to WRONG SINGLE QUOTATION MARK makes for a very nice linguistic back-formation, something that I don't think I have seen before....

I'll make sure that other bug gets reported. It isn't as simple as being an ASCII only issue but there is a problem here so it needs to be figured out.

Now there is a lot of other content here in terms of suggestions or thoughts, and I especially liked the really solid attempt to solve some oft he problems related to smart quotes that have come up over time. Though I think they are interesting ideas, moving to use a text based TSF text profile would be a huge change for a lot of users, so ther would need to be a really large number of people who needed this kind of functionality.

I don't think we are really quite there yet in the Netherlands, even enough to ship an updated keyboard like the one suggested above, let alone a new TIP.

Plus there is the lack of support for additional shift states which would definitely need to be addressed before anyone would even be willing to take a look at it!

Then finally there were the suggestions about contacting product support.

I do know one thing, for sure.

If more of the customers who contacted me complaining about the "smarter quotes" feature in Word, or the other "feature" with CTRL+ALT shortcuts in Word that stomp on ALTGR characters (the feature that Marc Durdin dissected in an article I mentioned in The key to key messages is a key contribution), then perhaps the folks on the Word team would have the impression that they should mke it easier to alter these features than the current user interface allows. :-)

I am going to play around with the TIP idea a bit, in any case. There are some really interesting possibilities that would be allowed here....


This post brought to you by(U+2019, aka RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK)

# Adam T on 9 Aug 2008 8:50 AM:

I must admit, this issue was one why I instantly appreciated Mac OS X after switching to it after years of using Windows (the appearance of Vista was the event that immediately prompted me to that step).

In all the major Mac OS X keyboard layouts, the correct opening and closing quotation marks are accessible through Alt-key combinations, and they’re done in a sensible way. For example, in the U.S. English layout, Alt+[ gives “ and Shift+Alt+[ gives ”, while Alt+] gives ‘ and Shift+Alt+] gives ’. But when I switch to the Polish keyboard, Alt+[ will give me „ and Alt+] will give me ‚ — which are the proper opening quotation marks for Polish. Alt+\ give me « and Shift+Alt+\ give me », so I can even use the guillemets instead of the apostrophic quotation marks (a practice very common in Germany, sometimes in Poland and other European countries).

In addition, Alt+- gives me – and Shift+Alt+- gives me —, so I’m able to easily typographically correct dashes everywhere, not just in Word (e.g. in web browser text fields such as this one).

And there are tons of other sensible mappings. Alt+< is ≤, Alt+> is ≥, Alt+= is ≠ and Shift+Alt+= is ±.

The U.S. Extended layout gives me dead-key access to practically all combining diacritical marks that exist in Unicode. And overall, it seems like the developers who created the keyboard layouts thought very sensibly about an exhaustive use of Alt-combinations — and this is done in a no-specialty way so it is a low-hanging fruit for every user. No extra software installation required.

I wish Microsoft had done the same.



# Gé van Gasteren on 7 Sep 2008 8:38 AM:

Thanks for that work-around!

I’m typing this on my home-made "Dutch-International" keyboard and am slowly getting used to typing a space after the quote, instead of relying on the default-character behaviour (when the word doesn’t start with a vowel).

Actually, the first might be the way most Dutch type their quotes―I just don’t know.

(I just discover that there doesn’t seem to be a way to type an EM-dash in my keyboard, or on the US one―I’m pasting this one in from WordPad, where I typed it with 2015 Alt-X... Please correct me if there is a keystroke for it hidden somewhere.)

In answer to the first comment, I want to say that you're telling only half the story. I prefer the Mac myself, but Microsoft doesn't do things worse, just differently: Apple provides tools to make the user's job easier, Microsoft tries to take over the job from the user.

I prefer the first approach, but the latter does work for the majority of users.

And regarding quotes: When you are typing in MS Word and switch to the German keyboard layout, Word switches the text language to German too, and the smart quote behaviour switches to give you the proper German quotes „ and ”. Of course, the automatic language-detection routine has its quirks and may mess up things, but most users type in one language only and have no problems.

# Gé van Gasteren on 7 Sep 2008 8:44 AM:

I forgot to mention: There’s a Nobel-Prize winner in Holland with last name ’t Hooft, who is rather piqued every time someone spells his name with an opening quote. Maybe he could add to the clout for making Microsoft ship Dutch packages with smart quotes turned off by default?'t_Hooft

# Michael S. Kaplan on 8 Sep 2008 1:55 AM:

While I am sure having more juice wouldn't hurt, I don't know if I am the best negotiator for this particular issue. Has he complained about this anywhere publicly that can be referenced?

# Gé van Gasteren on 30 Nov 2008 4:12 PM:

I’m sure he has, but I have no references except his own web site:

I’ve sent him an email some time ago (and again today, just in case it ended up in his spam folder) but he always takes ages to respond.

# Gerard 't Hooft on 2 Dec 2008 8:08 AM:

Indeed I take ages to respond. Yes, I do complain, but hardly ever get any response, certainly not from the direction of  Microsoft.

I do not understand why smart quotes are so stupid. It is not only in Dutch that they go wrong. I participated at a meeting called Physics '99 and guess how '99 was spelled on their poster? If you have an eye for it, you see this mistake being made everywhere. I am afraid the smart quote feature could only work if the program could understand in an intelligent way what is being written. Fact is that the quotation sign ' may stand for something omitted, like isn't, or '99 instead of 1999. If smart quote cannot figure that out, it should be removed from the program.

Fact is: people won't correct subtle modifications like the ones produced by smart quote which often go unnoticed.

Smart quote is so stupid that it does more harm than good. It should be switched off not only in Dutch texts but everywhere.

O, by the way, in Dutch, the double beginning quotation symbol used to be " written as 99 in a lowered position. With English keyboards, this rule has disappeared without a whisper. Why did no-one protest? Could a future really smart quote reinstall this beautiful feature of the Dutch language?

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