Another take on the English apostrophe in Unicode
charupdate at orange.fr
Mon Jun 15 01:40:57 CDT 2015
On Wed, Jun 10, 2015, Ted Clancy wrote:
> The idea that words with apostrophes aren't valid words is a regrettable myth that exists in English,
> which has repeatedly led to the apostrophe being an afterthought in computing, leading to situations like this one.
> I imagine spell-checkers of the future could underline a word where I erroneously use a closing quote instead of an apostrophe, or vice versa.
> There are other possible solutions too, but I don't want to get into a discussion about UI design. I'll leave that to UI designers.
Thereʼs however one UI whose design is a matter of everybody, and every typist should be interested in, that is, we all, since everybody does at least partly a typistʼs work. Weʼre all typists, and weʼre all invited to help design that UI for ourselves and for our relations, friends, colleagues.
This week-end I switched my current apostrophe from U+2019 to U+02BC by updating my (already customised, but still unfinished) French keyboard layout. As weʼve already one prominent dead key, Iʼd added two others on Base shift state. From now on, I type GRAVE – APOSTROPHE / QUOTATION MARK for a single or double opening quote, and get the closing one by using the ACUTE dead key. This recalls some legacy practice where spacing accents were used. The typographic apostrophe U+02BC is CIRCUMFLEX – APOSTROPHE. (Iʼd U+2019 on the apostrophe key when Kana was toggled off!) In addition, Iʼve added an autocorrect for U+0027 to be replaced with U+02BC when writing text on Microsoft Word Starter.
The idea that we canʼt touch at our keyboard except on keycaps as theyʼre labeled, or that we can at most change for another predefined layout which often doesnʼt match these labels, is another regrettable widespread myth. As users, we confine ourselves in a receptive and waiting position, wishing and suggesting, and doing all imaginable and improbable things except adding a handful of characters on our keyboard straight before us, while in the meantime, in obliging anticipation, the worldʼs biggest software company stays inviting us to feel free to customise our keyboard with a free tool for free download at
If this call were taken serious, all these discussions about keyboards would take another turn. Every corporate manager would make sure that his employees use appropriate keyboard layouts to save time and enhance output quality. To achieve this, he would not hesitate one minute to put himself at the place of a UI designer and to get that poor keyboard UI molted to a performative worktool. And to deploy the result at corporate level.
The MSKLC is worth spending a day to get started with and to create a completed keyboard layout from oneʼs preferred one, because this will save much time and anger. You may design one where apostrophe and single quotes are far one from another (as on Saturdayʼs kbdenusw), to avoid mistyping and spelling errors without having to wait for any better on-screen UI.
However, I wonʼt hide that the MSKLC does not allow to chain dead keys, nor does it support Kana shift states, things that are useful for a number of languages using latin or other scripts and to emulate a compose functionality. But all this plus a Kana toggle ends up to be rather simple with additional resources to program and compile the driver in C, all free of charge as well, namely a DDK or WDK
The ‘kbdenukw’ and ‘kbdenusw’ of Saturday, no matter whether they were downloaded or not, are now available in their 2.0 version, which differs from the previous by including the two missing dashes. The goal of this exercise is to prove that at this funny speed, and with such a facility of adding characters on the keyboard, there is no more reason to deprive oneself of the Unicode non-ASCII characters one needs. You may open the included *.klc source—a file format which Microsoft designed for sharing—in the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator and in a text editor. For more information, please see my related previous mail. (The AltGr views of the US version show the dead key content.)
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