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The Short(cut) story

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Mar. 26th, 2009 | 07:23 pm
mood: busybusy

The following is a mail written long time ago justifying the usage of the English shortcut keys for localized Bengali applications.

Hi everyone,

Deepayan Sarkar wrote:

I'm slightly confused about this. There are two types of shortcuts,
one in menu items etc (indicated by _ or & in the translated strings),
and one like CTRL-Q to quit an application. Which ones are we talking
about? The first type are activated by pressing ALT. Where does the
CTRL key come in? If we are talking about the second, I didn't even
know that they could be translated. Can they? How?

First up to clarify matters, this issue concerns the alt+hotkey combinations. the ctrl+key combinations as far as I am aware cannot be translated. atleast I have never come across it ever. Hence for saving a file: alt+f+s is different from ctrl+s.

Currently, I use a system with bengali locale and interface as my primary production system. The input method I use is IIIMF. This is an application specific input method switcher. Same goes for SCIM. i.e. these two do not change the keyboard for the entire system. Earlier I have used setxkbmap which was a system level input method switcher and looks like most people in the thread are familiar with this method.

What I have come across regarding alt+hotkeys during my regular work are as follows [along with details]:

#1. Dysfunctional

I will not call the hotkeys non-functional, but dysfunctional. Reason being:


-> En shortcuts work as alt+en key even when the active keyboard is a bengali keyboard [ i use probhat] -> bn shortcuts like alt+bn key do not work even when the active keyboard is a bengali keyboard.

@ setxkbmap

-> bn shortcuts work as alt+bn key or alt+shift+bn key [in case of a character like ফ] with an active bn keyboard.

-> en shortcuts work as alt+key with an active en keyboard

additional info: ctrl+s types shortcuts [which cannot be translated] did not function with an active setxkbmap bn keyboard. but functioned with an active bn keyboard on IIIMF and SCIM.

#2. Inconsistent

Duplication of top-level menu hotkeys as well as submenu hot-key under the same top-level menu item. for e.g. in gnome-games mines বৈশিষ্ট্য -> পূর্ণপর্দা and বৈশিষ্ট্য -> পছন্দ both have hotkeys as alt+প.

#3 Partial Implementation

Now there are two offspins from this one.

@ gtk overrides [for gnome]:

this is specifically for the gnome desktop. as golum was kind of confused about it let me explain in detail. currently in gedit.po file Cut (_C) is translated as কাট করুন (_C), whereas in gtk+ file it is translated as কাট(_ট)। But when populating the menu items for gedit, in some cases instead of the translation being used in gedit.po file the one from gtk+.po file is being used. [http://runa.randomink.org/AnkurBangla/gedit1.png]. I use a .mo file compiled from the original .po file and the same thing looks as this image. [http://runa.randomink.org/AnkurBangla/gedit2.png]

@ application related:

this is for applications that do not have a text editor on its primary interface. Again using the example for gnome-games mines [alternatively same game]. this application uses alt+bn key hotkeys.

** IIIMF and SCIM: bn keyboard for this particular application cannot be activated, because there is no text entry box on the primary interface. hence alt+bn hotkeys do not work. alt+en hotkey works. a text entry box appears only when the user is allowed to write in his/her name for the score.

** setxkbmap: alt+bn hotkey combination works on the main interface as setxkbmap sets the system level keyboard to bn.


The reasons for the above mentioned behaviour is unknown to me and I can only comment about them as observations from the perspective of a user. Whether geeky or not, one cannot assume the requirements of a user. sometime back while doing an installation on a test system i had to resort to the hotkeys due to a malfunctioning mouse. at that point of time the shortcuts on anaconda did not function as they were in english and the keyboard used during installation is en. and unlike the gedit solution I mentioned earlier, hacking on installers is not really an available option. This issue has been resolved and I mention this only to highlight the fact that requirements from users can be varied and at times maybe due to unexpected circumstances.

Secondly, the issue regarding consistency between KDE and Gnome. Barring contexts I guess issues for both the desktops ought to be dealt with separately. Yet, known issues in gnome can be used to reference any similar issues arising in KDE and vice versa. I guess kcontrol would be apt example in this case where multiple backend files are being used and consistency is a key element. Similar to the gedit+gtk scenario.

Given that we have come across multiple results, it might be a good idea to go behind the scenes to figure out where exactly things are going wrong. Whether using en shortcuts is a regressive step backward is somewhat fuzzy as of now. Currently, the bn shortcuts are comparitively more dysfunctional and inconsistent. If we need to implement bn hotkeys successfully, first we need to get our homework done and check in the inconsistency factor. Secondly, given the fact that most distros are shipping with IIIMF and SCIM as the default input method framework for localized versions can we afford to promote a bengali desktop that shows stark flaws on the primary desktop interface. [refer #1]. To conclude, imho, it is always better to provide a functional interface that would be open to change and improvement in the future rather than restricting usage in the present.

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