Back when I had a “proper” job, working in another company, I remember several people kept having a problem with their computer keyboard suddenly thinking it was an American keyboard.
The letters and numbers are in the same place but some of the other symbols are different – for example there’s no £ sign and the “ sign is on a different key.
That wouldn’t be so bad except none of us really knew what the American keyboard layout was like, so if it happened to you, you’d have to try random keys until you got the right one. From memory I think you had to push the @ symbol to get a “
Anyway, eventually I worked out that they must have knocked the alt and shift keys at the same time, which switched between UK and US keyboard layouts. Once we knew that it made it easy – if it happened to someone they just pressed Alt and Shift again to get back to the UK layout (I think this still works on some PCs).
But if rumours are true, it wouldn’t have been such an issue if we’d had the new keyboard Apple are planning to bring out shortly.
Apparently the letters and so on on the keys aren’t painted on – they’re a form of “e-ink” – the same technology as the Kindle ebook reader uses. Which means if you switch to a different language, the writing on the keys changes.
Similarly if you press caps lock, the letters on the keys actually change into capitals. There are other uses, too, making some keys stand out more than others or making them bold when you select bold in the program you’re using.
It’s not a huge revolution, but I can see it being quite handy – and I’m sure there’ll be some other clever ways to use it… what if a music score program could make the keys look like quavers, minims and so on… or if you could have a “special symbols” mode to type in things like ° or © or ½ and so on.
A keyboard shortcut I discovered last week
While I’m talking about clever things you can do with keys, I learnt a new keyboard shortcut for Windows last week. Well, not entirely new, but a tweak to one I already knew.
So if you have a window on the screen (say your emails or a web browser) and you hold down the windows key and tap the right cursor arrow or the left arrow, it’ll make that window fit the right (or left) half of the screen. Then you can open another window and make that fit the left (or right) side in the same way. It’s handy if you want to have two windows open at once so you can work on them together and you want them both to be as big as each other.
I use it sometimes if I’m writing something up based on something else I’ve done. Or sending an email about something I want to see while I type the email.
But last week I found in Windows 10 you can have a window open, then hold the windows key and tap right, then (while still holding the windows key) tap up and it’ll put that window into the top right hand corner. And similarly for the other corners.
It’s probably only useful if you have a reasonably big monitor, but I could imagine it might be useful if (say) you’re writing up a plan for a holiday and you want the list of times they emailed you open in one window and a map of the place you’re staying in another. Or any other time you want to be looking at two things while typing something up.