Sorting it all Out Michael Kaplan's random stuff of dubious value Be sure to read the disclaimer here first!
There are many times on this blog where I have talked about how accessibility features and internationalization features work together to create a better user experience.
It can sometimes happen even if no actual attempt to work together was taking place!
There are just many times that different groups can, in trying to help customers, help each other at the same time.
It is a great thing to have happen and notice and any time I see such a thing, I feel gratified to be a part of it and proud that I work on the coolest and most widespread operating system on the planet.
The subject of today's post is not going to be one of those times.
We are basically looking at two features:
STICKY KEYS -- I always liken Sticky Keys to a wizard. On an XP or Server 2003 machine, just hit the SHIFT key five times in rapid succession to have it appear:
You can hit OK to just use the defaults or Cancel if you got there accidentally or that settings button to specially configure how the feature works:
It is a very useful feature if you are someone who has trouble with deft keystrokes holding down multiple keys, a not at all uncommon issue for many people. It pops up in intuitive circumstances with a great way to turn it on or off.
Reading Order - If you richt click in Notepad (XP or later) you will see a menu option for it:
Now you may not really care about the feature (if you do not use RTL scripts). But if you do, it can make all of the difference in the world, basically
It lets you let the application know whether to expect that the next text is going to be right to left or left to right.
To make the feature easier to use, there are keyboard shortcuts that help make that same switch happen:
Now this feature is not always enabled; basically it is enabled any time you have complex script support installed in Regional and Language Options (the first checkbox in the middle tab).
Note that the underlying text representation does not change, it is a display issue. But a really important display issue for the intuitive usage of RTL scripts. You only have to work with the cursor and the neutral characters slipping from side to side while you type for a few minutes to know how annoying it can be to type RTL text in LTR contexts and vice versa.
So, what is the problem, you say?
Well, the problem is that there is only one way to make these two keyboarding features work well together, and that way is poorly. Even though the accessibility feature has reportedly been around since Windows 98 and the Reding Order keyboard shortcuts have been around in some form since Windows 95.
Like the time that the only way to make the two children on the playground happy is to separate them and not let them play together, these two useful features are quite simply not able to work together, at all.
Now I do have to say that in terms of the best UI to help people get in and out, the best way to configure, and the best way to understand when the feature is active, Sticky Keys wins, hands down. It is clearly the more mature of the two children. Because the Reading Order change shortcuts have no UI configuration, are tied to a feature that may be enabled only to get better font linking for Armenian and thus not even be understood, and provides no way to turn off the feature short of uninstalling complex script support.
So they are both being brats, but clearly we know which one is worse.
People are now talking about how to make this situation better in Vista (especially important since the 'Complrex Script' support is always enabled, which promotes what is sometimes unintuitively annoying into what an be always so!), and it is unfortunately not as easy as it ought to be, since although Sticky Keys info can be get/set via SystemParametersInfo with the SPI_GETSTICKYKEYS and SPI_SETSTICKYKEYS uiAction parameters and are part of a global system mechanism, the RTL Reading Order shortcuts have no real programmatic interface and are actually separately implemented by the applications like Notepad and Word that use them, and no easy way to hook into the behavior to change it on a global scale.
Just as in the life, the worst brat is the hardest one to control!
At the same time, it is important not to punish the customer who may need one feature or the other just because these two cannot work well together.
Anyway, we're working on it. Perhaps, once a solution is arrived upon, it is something that could be ported to the downlevel platforms that are also affected.
In the meantime, you will have to make your choice as to which feature you want and then not use the other.
Or, if you are able to, you may choose to send both of the brats to their room without supperr and not really give either one the chance to perform....
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I'm going to have to agree with Jeff Parker on this one:
I got to this blog by googling "Kill sticky keys forever", mostly because I was frustrated and running out of search phrase ideas that would find the magic bullet. Sticky keys is one of the banes of my life. Whenever I disable it it comes back, and it's forever causing problems and generally making life difficult.
If there were any way to rip it out of Windows, *even at the cost of all the other accessibility options* I would do it. I don't need any of the accessibility options, and I hate Sticky Keys that much.