If the collars and cuffs don't match...

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2011/07/21 07:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2011/07/21/10188466.aspx

In this blog's title, cuffs and collars are metaphors for fonts and keyboards. It's not a very effective metphor or even a terribly funny joke, so if the meaning doesn't come to you, let it go. You aren't missing anything....

Yesterday, in response to my blog We got the keyboards now! (Windows 7 edition), regular reader Santhosh Pillai asked:

How to get atomic chillus in Malayalam keyboard layout?

The short answer is the easiest, so I'll start there:

You don't.

However, I doubt this answer will be as very sastisfying one to Santhosh, or to anyone really.

So perhaps I should explain.

It started in the beginning of 1998. And continued, on and off, until the middle of 1999.

When Microsoft added Indic support to Windows, and in particular it added keyboards for Hindi and Tamil.

Now over the next few years, in XP and XP SP2 and Vista, Microsoft would periodically add new keyboards for new languages -- Bengali, Telugu, Malayalam, Oriya, and so on.

Each of these different language keyboards supporting different scripts and different languages had two simple things in common:

  1. They were never updated after they were added;
  2. They never had a new keyboard added either.

Now Tamil added a Sha and a Zero and some symbols. Bengali resolved issues around the Khanda Ta. Malayalam added atomic Chillu characters. Etc., etc. For this to happen, Unicode was being periodically changed/updated for Indic support.

And although our fonts and shaping engines were updated to stay conformant to Unicode, the keyboards were never touched.

This may beg the question of how the font/shaping engine changes were tested -- I guess they just had documents already created and they were not testing fresh inserts?

Essentially this means that the last decade of improvements and changes for Indic have been well supported on the font side and ignored on the input side.

I think someone should work to correct this oversight at some point....

Doug Ewell on 21 Jul 2011 9:37 AM:

That's kind of the overall impression I'm getting about MS keyboard support anyway -- once a keyboard is shipped, it's set in stone and can never be updated, because to do so would be considered an incompatible change.  Please tell me I'm wrong about this.

Michael S. Kaplan on 21 Jul 2011 10:44 AM:

You aren't wrong.

But we routinely add new keyboards and don't link the old ones to locales. It is how we move forward. We just didn;t do it here is all.

Jeremy on 21 Jul 2011 2:07 PM:

This is completely off-topic, but: is it just me, or does "atomic chillus" sound like some sort of device an evil-genius type bad guy in a superhero movie would have invented to put the world into an ice-age or something?

Michael S. Kaplan on 21 Jul 2011 4:16 PM:

I was just thinking how much I'd love to see "The Atomic Chillus" band play some weekend....

Pavanaja U B on 21 Jul 2011 7:18 PM:

In Kannada also there are some new characters added by Unicode which are not present in the default keyboard. MSKLC seems to be the only way out. Can we freely distribute the keyboard layouts that we create using MSKLC? What are the licensing issues?



Michael S. Kaplan on 21 Jul 2011 7:29 PM:

You can freely redistribute them. You should also mention the characters here, so I can make sure they don't get missed as people panic about this.

Santhosh Pillai on 22 Jul 2011 7:18 AM:

Thanks Michael. I completely agree with the last point. :)

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