Does MS just make up these punctuation-challenged keyboards to piss people off?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/10/23 10:01 -04:00, original URI:

Regular reader Jan Kučera asks over in the Suggestion Box:

Who does create the keyboard layouts? I'm using the Tamil one, which is nice to play with, yes, but... do people really need to install another layout (and constantly switch between them) just to be able to type question mark, exclamation mark, quotes, colon, brackets... or am I missing something fundamental here?

The answers to these questions can be found through some careful searching through the Blog. :-)

The very first question sees it answer in one of the very first blogs (plus or minus a few months), entitled Does MS pull new keyboard layouts out of their @!#$%?.

The answer to the second question is simpler -- No. Jan is missing nothing, as usual....

A more detailed answer on the specific problem can be found in later blogs.

Like the second bullet point in The real problems with keyboard switching, a blog that discusses the most important reasons that the model of switching layouts is not more readily accepted.

Or the second bullet point in Ideas about loading existing keyboards in MSKLC, a blog intended to be a quick brainstorming for someone authoring a keyboard layout creation tool to look at possible solutions to these problems.

Or more recently, The built-in attempt to support multi-monolingual keyboards is kinda broken, where I point out the real flaw in the assumption that the switching will be helpful for most people.

Now I can't claim a ton of progress has been made here beyond someone from Microsoft (well, me) identifying the problem almost three years prior.

Technically, I did provide a slightly more intuitive attempt at inputting Tamil in Behold the Table Driven Text Service, Part 12 (The knights who say நீ, redux, #2). Though that doesn't do much specifically in this case either. Mainly because I was focusing on other things....

But working to solve the problems here? Not so much.

Sorry about that. :-(


This blog brought to you by கு (U+0b95 U+0bc1, aka TAMIL LETTER KA + TAMIL VOWEL SIGN U, aka TAMIL LETTER KU)

Ron McMahon on 23 Oct 2008 12:48 PM:

I am one of the fortunate few on this planet whose mother tongue is in use on the default keyboard layouts I encounter. What a great time to speak English, eh?

What drives me nuts (and I don't blame Microsoft for this) is the wholesale change in notebook keyboard layouts that have emerged over the course of 2008.  Am I the only person who is peeved at the introduction and almost ubiquitious use of a new larger 'Enter' key?  This new backward L shaped key has caused the removal of the backslash key to places unknown.  It isn't like this is the key to the left of 1 in the QWERTY layout (is its shifted character called 'tildie'?)  The backslash key is RATHER IMPORTANT and used on a regular basis by anyone who needs to type a directory path or a command line switch that requires the 'pipe' character (the shifted value of that on my keyboard).

Like I said, I don't blame Microsoft for this, and perhaps that is the problem; I don't know WHO to blame or complain to.  This keyboard change is spanning manufacturers; Acer, Gateway, HP, Toshiba, Compaq, Sony and probably a few others all have new models showing up with this awful design!

I guess forming some sort of Facebook group might be good therapy...

Jan Kučera on 23 Oct 2008 4:11 PM:

Hi Michael, thanks for quick answer :)

I keep thinking the search here is not working as it should, but I admit I could have guessed (well, remembered) this was already covered. But actually this was only a side question... (and yes, I kinda knew the answer).

In the blog you reference, there is:

"New keyboards for a market always get tested in their respective market.  A great deal of research does go into the keyboards shipped with the system, with feedback from linguists, government officials, other internationalization experts, and local software providers."

I'm just absolutely fascinated none of them needed to type a question mark! And especially when you look on the Tamil layout and see all the non-assigned or repeated keys...

Thank you also for the reminder of table driven text service solution, however, for example in the Visual Studio, the dropdown is being showed in the top left corner of the screen, which makes it a bit useless. And the other problem is that you have to confirm each letter, which is kind of unnatural (and slow) way to write any longer text.

Fortunately there is your MSKLC to fix this (and other) issues, which I got used to pretty quickly, so I think you did as much as you could to help us with that! :)

Mike Dimmick on 24 Oct 2008 5:57 AM:

Ron, UK keyboards, and most other European keyboards, have the L-shaped Enter key. On the UK layout, the backslash and pipe move between left-shift and Z.

I would imagine that laptops use an identical physical design for all keyboards, although perhaps the Kana shifts on a Japanese model might require some adjustment (or perhaps just discard Windows and 'app menu' keys).

Abhishek on 24 Oct 2008 7:59 AM:

Ron, I can confirm what Mike said above... KBs sold here in India till sometime in the mid-2000s used to have the L-shaped Enter key. I'm pretty sure one can still go out and get old 'cherry-key' KBs (with mechanical keys that actually click and provide tactile feedback that I love - still use the same one after 15 years!) with the old key layout.

Matter of fact, it took me some time before I became entirely comfortable with the Logitech KB I got for my new PC circa 2005 with the new key layout. Now I'm comfortable with both of course.

Honestly though, the reason I absolutely **HATE** laptop KBs are their non-standard layouts and those dinky keys even midgets would shy away from. I mean, who the hell has time to poke around with a pencil while trying to figure out where the damn Shift key has disappeared to?

Mike Dimmick on 26 Oct 2008 2:11 PM:

On the subject of laptop keyboards, my Dell Latitude D820's main key area is identical to a full-size UK keyboard. It has a proper T-shaped arrow cluster at lower right, though that means it loses the right Windows and application key, and the space bar is a bit shorter. The function keys and escape are half-height, though, and the spaces between Escape and F1 and spacing the four function clusters are lost. The Ins/Del/Home/End/PgUp/PgDn group keep their normal relative positions but move to top right, and Print Screen, Num Lock and Pause end up above F10, F11 and F12. Finally the app menu key is above F9.

I believe the D830 keeps the same keyboard layout.

In fact the only really annoying thing about it - apart from not having nearly as much travel, which you have to accept on a laptop - is the damned PointingStick thing which just gets in the way (and on mine has a habit of getting stuck and constantly applying unwanted motion to the mouse pointer) and the fact that my thumb hovers over the trackpad which gets interpreted occasionally as a click event, moving the cursor somewhere entirely unintended. Unfortunately Dell are slack at producing Vista drivers for the D820 so I can't turn the damn things off when I have an external mouse connected (i.e. all the time).

Looks like Dell have just introduced a new E-range of Latitude laptops. Again, the 15.4" screen variant seems to have a nearly full-size keyboard.

Sorry for the Dell advert but it's what we have at work and so what I bought at home (it being basically a desktop replacement).

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