Pages: Superscript keyboard shortcut

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Pages
February 10th, 2005 • 5:08 am

This is a problem that tends to happen a bit too often for my taste. Apple chooses a keyboard shortcut for a command, and the shortcut involves a character key that is not as readily accessible on foreign keyboards as it is on the standard US keyboard, or that’s not even readily accessible in the standard US keyboard layout.

Take, for example, the Superscript command in Pages. According to the “Baseline” submenu accessible through the “Text” submenu of the “Format” menu, the keyboard shorcut is control-command-+.

The trouble is that, while “+” is indeed a key on the numeric keypad, it’s not a key on the regular part of the keyboard, either in the US keyboard layout or in my Canadian CSA keyboard layout. In order to type “+“, you have to hit shift-=.

So, shouldn’t the keyboard shortcut be described as control-command-shift-= instead? Of course, it looks more complicated and less easy to remember. But really, who are they trying to confuse by using as the root character of a keyboard shortcut a character that is not even a regular key on the keyboard?

I just don’t understand this. In Safari, the keyboard shortcut for “Make Text Bigger” (in the “View” menu) is listed as command-+. Yet if you hit command-= (rather than command-shift-=, which is what command-+ really is) on the keyboard, it works as well.

On the other hand, the same thing is not true in Mail. If you are reading an e-mail message and want to make the text bigger, if you hit command-=, nothing happens. You have to hit command-shift-=.

This whole business simply doesn’t make sense. Once and for all, Apple should adopt a consistent way of describing shortcuts, which is to use as the root of the shortcut the character obtained by pressing the key without any modifiers, and then add the modifiers before it.

Of course, this doesn’t solve the problem of what happens when a character is a regular key in one keyboard layout (such as the US keyboard layout) and something that can only be typed with a modifier key in another keyboard layout (such as the Canadian CSA keyboard layout) — or when a character that is fairly easily accessible in the US layout is not easily accessible in other layouts.

For example, the ^ symbol is known as both the circumflex accent and the caret. In the US layout, it is obtained by pressing shift-6. In the Canadian CSA keyboard, the character itself is only accessible through a dead key, i.e. as the circumflex accent that goes on top of the vowel that’s typed immediately after it. In order to insert the caret itself, you actually have to press the dead key twice, once to insert a circumflex accent and once more to pretend that you want to add a circumflex accent on a circumflex accent, which of course does not work, and causes Mac OS X to insert the caret symbol by itself.

The problem is when Apple (or another developer) defines a new keyboard shortcut that uses the caret symbol, such as command-^. It’s simply impossible to achieve with a Canadian keyboard!

Of course, over the years, we’ve become accustomed to these quirks. (I am sure there are more of them in other keyboard layouts.) But it does not help that Apple fails to lead by example by adopting a consistent way of defining keyboard shortcuts and ensuring that all its keyboard shortcuts work with keyboards with a variety of layouts.

3 Responses to “Pages: Superscript keyboard shortcut”

  1. Pierre Igot says:

    In terms of keyboard shortcuts, Pages is definitely a 1.0 product. No keyboard shortcuts for styles? Ouch. No keyboard shortcuts for ALL CAPS or Small Caps? Ouch.

    Agreed with cmd-shift-I and -B. I too have them hard-wired. On the other hand, I try to use character styles instead as much as I can…

    I don’t want to have to use something like QuicKeys to remedy this…

  2. Warren Beck says:

    The strange choices for shortcuts in Pages was one of the first things I noticed after I opened the iWork box. I can’t even type the superscript shortcut without fouling it up. My fingers can’t press that key combination without pulling off one of the modifier keys; my mid-brain knows that it is bogus, so it won’t let me type them.

    I would also like to complain that command-shift-I and command-shift-B should map to italics and to boldface, respectively but pages uses the more ancient command-I and command-B. Fine. But those of us who have been using Word (or FrameMaker) have the latter shortcuts hard-wired. There is no reason that a given command shouldn’t have two shortcuts; the old Mac OS 9 menu manager wouldn’t have permitted it, but this is the 21st century and we’re using Mac OS X. I was especially surprised when command-shift-I triggered the “Show Invisibles” command–I almost spilled something on my keyboard.

    I’m using Quickeys X3 to map things to something more orthodox.

  3. Warren Beck says:

    I guess that one might be able to produce a new set of key bindings using the method that you raised a few days ago for selecting a line or paragraph, but it would be a lot of work. I haven’t yet figured out how to edit the plist files, but when I have time I guess I’ll figure it out.

    QuicKeys is working reliably on the superscripts and subscripts, for now, but I agree that adding a layer of stuff on top of the standard keyboard processing is a recipe for future problems.

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