Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Keyboard error, here and gone

Typing on a device isn’t easy for a lot of us digital immigrants: Unlike those who grew up with smart devices (phones and tablets), some of us have a bit of trouble or awkwardness using the virtual keyboards on those devices. Sometimes, the device manufacturer can make matters worse. That happened to me, until one day it was gone.

I’ve used the “New Zealand English” keyboard on my iPhone and iPad for many years now, chiefly so I can get the macrons used in most versions of written Māori (for example, in the word "Māori" the “a” has a macron). I pretty obviously like to try to type Māori words correctly, and those keyboards made that possible.

As a bonus, those same keyboards allowed all sorts of other character modifiers used in various European languages, such as, umlauts in German (like in the word “grün”, which means green in English). I have the same sort of commitment to try to to type vowels correctly in all the non-English European languages I use from time to time (in non-English European languages, it’s most likely to be for a proper name).

After some upgrade or other, I noticed that the “New Zealand English” keyboard on my iPad no longer had anything but regular letters and macrons—there were no other character modifiers. I noticed this because I was leaving a Facebook comment and needed an umlaut (for a name), only to discover they were gone.

After some fruitless research, I ended up adding a German keyboard to my iPad, which gave me umlauts again. Unfortunately, that added new problems and frustrations.

In the screenshot avive, the NZ English keyboard is at top, and the German version is below. I toggled between the keyboards by tapping the globe symbol in the bottom row (second key from the left edge). However, that was also how I accessed emojis, something I use a lot in Facebook comments, private messages, texts, etc. It turns out that it was easy to accidentally switch to German and then be faced with a different keyboard layout (apparently called QWERTZ instead of the English QWERTY, and for the same reason). Sometimes I wasn’t even aware I’d accidentally bumped the globe key, so intent was I on what I was writing. Sometimes I also got into a weird loop trying to get an emoji or back to English. I was exasperated enough that I decided to (eventually) delete the German keyboard.

Then, everything changed.

Apple released another update to the operating system for my iPad, and I—eventually—noticed that the New Zealand English keyboard once again had all the special characters that had been missing. I then deleted the German keyboard, and my switching between letters and emojis was once again a peaceful endeavour.

The not noticing thing is a repeating reality, so I don’t know if my iPhone keyboard was similarly afflicted, though I presume it was. I generally only use that keyboard for texting because it’s so small and my fingers aren’t. I also never installed the German keyboard in my phone because I rarely, if ever, needed anything beyond macrons.

The story is even more complicated on my desktop Mac, and another reason I didn’t notice the difference on the iPad.

On my Mac, I use "Australian English" as my “input source” (which is mainly about keyboard configuration, though it apparently helps with spelling/autocorrect; there is no NZ English keyboard). That keyboard has all the European characters—but no macrons. For that, I have a second keyboard—called “Māori”—that has macrons, but no European special characters. Most of the time I have the keyboard set to Māori, which is usually all I need. When I need an umlaut or whatever, I use my mouse and toggle to the Australian keyboard, then back to Māori (there's probably a keyboard shortcut to toggle between the two keyboards, but I've never looked into it; it's highly improbable I'd remember it). When I noticed the change on the iPad keyboard, I just assumed Apple was standardising keyboards between mobile devices and Macs.

At any rate, I'm glad it's once again simple to type whatever non-English character I need, and to only have to use one keyboard to do it. It'd be nice if Apple did something similar with the Mac, but toggling keyboards on my Mac isn't even nearly as annoying as it was on the iPad.

Sometimes it's the smallest things that can make the biggest difference. I just never would've expected a virtual keyboard on a tablet would prove the point.

1 comment:

d said...

Today I learned that 1) there is a NZ English keyboard, and 2) the German keyboard switches two letters and adds a letter. Interesting!!