Blame Canada! aka Where is the RIGHT CTRL key on *this* keyboard, Canada?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2013/04/08 07:01 -04:00, original URI:

They speak of it quietly, so as to not upset the Canadian standards people.

But the plain truth is that we simply don't like this keyboard layout.

The Canadian Multilingual Standard keyboard (CAN/CSA-Z243.200-92) is the one I mean.

I could blame Ian James for it (the SLM logs clearly point him out to be the culprit, after all!), but that was a lifetime ago, and he was really just following orders. Following a standard, in fact.

It wasn't his fault that they were stupid orders, and a stupid standard.

Look at it:

Try to ignore if looking at it made you throw up in your mouth a little.

At least you kept it down, right? :-)

The above image, which I gleefully stole from here, helps to highlight why I and so many of my colleagues don't care for this keyboard layout.

You can see the layout here.

The base state;

The shift state:

The (mostly empty) AltGR state:

And the completely empty) Shift+AtGR state:

Keep those mostly empty key states in mind as I point out the final two states.

There is the RIGHT CTRL state:

And the Shift+RIGHT CTRL state:

Now look again at that keyboard hardware, presumably sold in Canada:

Where is the RIGHT CTRL key?!?

Wow. Two whole shift states completely unavailable to us, all of which would have fit neatly in the AltGR and Shift+AltGR states.

For me, this is an accessibility issue. They aren't making those characters accessible to me....

People ask me al the time how can they add shift states like this in MSKLC, but I always refuse to answer. I don't want to encourage anyone else to author such layouts!

To add insult to injury: there is no RIGHT CTRL key on my Surface keyboard:

Et tu, Surface?

Maybe the Canadian Standards policy wonks need to rethink their multilingual keyboard!

Wes MacDonald on 8 Apr 2013 8:24 AM:

I agree 100% with you.  I still use a US Keyboard for all of my devices, even if I can't find them as easy as I would like.

Joshua on 8 Apr 2013 11:59 AM:

Ugh. Any distinction between left & right shift completely defeats the point about using shift key with other hand (ctrl is another shift).

cheong00 on 8 Apr 2013 9:01 PM:

The cheap cheap old keyboard I used at home (costed HKD18, around USD2.3) has left Ctrl, Alt and Shift keys only. The right hand side keys has been replaced by PrintScn, Num Lock, Scroll Lock and Break. (App key also moved to left side beside Win key)

Talking about wierd keyboard layout...

On the plus side, I could press some key combinations with single hand... Including Ctrl-F10 for Excel.

IceWolf on 8 Apr 2013 11:17 PM:

Yea, I always hated the symbols used (language neutral) on everything up here in Canada.

But, the "right state" key being a right arrow, and the "front state" being the "arrow in front of the normal arrow" is so unintuative.

They're almost always sold colour-coded.

Googling finds few photos, but here's one that shows how they normally look:

Cause if you don't they look like:  

Which is just.. painful.

Though it's now more common to see

US Layout Keyboard, with extra keys (so you get two or three \ keys, and the «» key that is either \ or do-nothing) to accomodate US-English and CA-French.

Like This mess:

Peter Krefting on 10 Apr 2013 12:07 AM:

Speaking of colour-coding keyboard, this can sometimes be confusing as well. For instance, when a keyboard like this, from a well-known manufacturer, comes with different-but-similar keyboard layouts, using colours to separate the three:

Especially note the difference between the Norwegian (green) and Danish (blue) placement of the letters Æ and Ø at the right hand side (and trying to find the location of "|" and "\" is also fun).

ErikF on 10 Apr 2013 5:46 AM:

No one that I know of actually uses said keyboard; it's possible that the unfortunates in the federal government are stuck with it. The first thing I do is make sure the US keyboard is selected. Fortunately the people who made the Windows setup program have realized this as well since at least Vista!

I'm not altogether certain why the "Canadian Multilingual" keyboard includes characters that aren't used in Canada like the pound sign, copyright symbol and section marker. If you're going to add characters, why not syllabics? At least they are used by people who live in Canada!

I have no idea which keyboard people in Quebec choose. If I had to guess, I'd probably say that they choose the French keyboard.

Joe Clark on 10 Apr 2013 2:07 PM:

I believe this layout is not commercially available on a real hardware keyboard except by special online order, and even then that individual keyboard may not come into existence until you actually do order it.

BTW, OS X (which isn’t pronounced “oh ess eks”) also “supports” this layout. But we don’t have a concern with right-side Ctrl keys.

Entegy on 11 Apr 2013 6:20 AM:

I've never seen any of those symbols and I sorta have to support multilingual (guess which province). All the keyboards with that are Multilingual Standard say ctrl, alt, Shift, etc... What the heck is that right arrow key in the bottom right? Is it actually the right arrow?

Anyway, as an Anglophone, I will not buy a machine/keyboard without the English US layout. One major reasoning is the shortening of the left Shift key. That is so unacceptable to me. When I need French, I'll use the ALT codes for accents or Office's autocorrect to input them for me.

Azarien on 12 Apr 2013 11:29 AM:

@IceWolf: aah, those olde keyboards with white letter keys and gray special keys. Actually I've made a pair of those, buying one white and one black, and rearranging the keys between them. Now one is "positive" and the other "negative". ;)

Eric Côté on 19 Apr 2013 12:46 PM:

I live in Montreal. Most French-Canadians are going to avoid the "multilingual" keyboard and instead opt for the friendlier "Canadian French" keyboard. Even the Surface keyboard that you buy in Montréal and Québec City is going to use the "Canadian French" keyboard. Microsoft Hardware has been selling "Canadian French" keyboards since the late 90s.

But here's a sad story: when you use the new "language" control panel, if you select "Français (Canada)", it is going to default your keyboard to "Canadian Multilingual Standard".

The same happens if you get a new computer that goes through the new "out-of-box experience" (that's the set of screens during the initial boot of a new computer). It's going to ask you "English or French" and default your keyboard accordingly. If you choose "French" with a Canadian Time Zone, you'll automatically get "Canadian multilingual Standard".

And there's no obvious way to change that for non-technical users. I dare you to try!

Answer:  Go to the "Language" Control Panel, click "option" just beside "Français (Canada)", "Add an input method", and then you see a panel with an alphabetical list of all French keyboard, followed by an alphabetical list of NON-French Keyboards. Go to the second list and find "Canadian French" (yep, that is a bug, it should be on the first list. Making things worse, there's also a "Canadian French (Legacy)" on the first list that dates back from the Win3.0 days and that should absolutely be avoided.)

Every time I see someone with a Surface connected to a French Canadian Keyboard, it's always using the wrong keyboard layout. People always go: "hey, it's a buggy Microsoft product, this wouldn't happen with Apple".  The source of problem is thus: the default layout from Microsoft Hardware isn't following the default layout from the Windows division.

referenced by

2013/04/23 Sometimes Microsoft will unfortunately take a government's requirements over its customer's preferences...

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