Pages: No keyboard shortcut for en dash?

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft, Pages
March 8th, 2005 • 8:43 am

When typing text in Pages, as far as I know, there is no keyboard shortcut for the en dash. This is unforgivable. I realize that the en dash can be accessed through the Character Palette that’s available system-wide (when it’s made visible in the IM menu), but that’s not a solution. Who wants to have to do multiple mouse clicks in order to obtain a simple character such as the en dash — everytime?

The problem is, of course, that, unlike the em dash, the en dash has never been part of the standard keyboard layouts used in Western countries such as the US, Canada, France, etc. (I doubt very much that it’s available in other keyboard layouts, but you never know.) The em dash is readily accessible (cmd-shift-0 on my Canadian CSA keyboard), but not the en dash.

This means that each application needs to provide its own shortcut for it. Microsoft Word has its own shortcut. Adobe InDesign has its own shortcut. Both applications let you customize it. Pages has no shortcut at all. It doesn’t even have a menu command for it. The only option is the Character Palette.

I am afraid it’s unacceptable.

Typing text is one of the primary activities in a word processor / page layout application such as Pages. Requiring users to grab the mouse to access such fundamental features is senseless.

When it comes to keyboard shortcuts and customizability, Pages feels very much like a 1.0 application. The thing is, even version 1.0 of a word processor should have such features.

7 Responses to “Pages: No keyboard shortcut for en dash?”

  1. Warren Beck says:

    Pierre: are you making a distinction between the “n-dash” and the “n-hyphen”? On my system, option- gets a n-hyphen and shift option- gets the m-hyphen. I’m using a TrueType font, the Times New Roman that comes with MS Word 2004.

    (Sorry if I am confused by your terminology).

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    Darn it, it’s yet another issue specific to the Canadian CSA keyboard layout (and presumably other international keyboard layouts). option-N does indeed work with the US keyboard layout, but not with the Canadian CSA one!


  3. Pierre Igot says:



    on my Canadian CSA layout gives access to the incredibly useful… inverted question mark! Gee whiz, whoever designed this Canadian CSA layout needs to be institutionalized.

    I guess I am going to have to design a customized keyboard layout… This is ridiculous.

  4. Pierre Igot says:

    To go back to the initial post: it turns out that the Canadian CSA keyboard layout does have the en dash. It’s



    I have no idea how I missed this. It’s been there right under my nose all that time.

    It probably comes from Microsoft Word having a different (application-specific) shortcut for this. Since Word has been the application where I have been using the en dash most often in recent years, I just got used to the shortcut provided by Word and never thought there might be another, more universal one.

  5. Pierre Igot says:

    Warren: Presumably the Pages shortcuts page makes no mention of the dashes/hyphens because Apple is still desperately US-centric and figures that these characters are readily available on the US keyboard and that’s all that counts.

    I also like this:

    Select a word Double-click the word
    Select a paragraph Triple-click in the paragraph

    I didn’t know mouse clicking was a keyboard shortcut! :)

    Of course, the fact that Pages is a word processor/page layout application means that hyphens and dashes are more important than in other applications, but this doesn’t seem to have registered with Apple engineers.

    Non-breaking hyphens are indeed another important feature that’s missing.

    Olivier: There are significant differences in the use of the various dashes between English and French (for example, the em dash is normally used without spaces in English typography, whereas French typography requires spaces before and after), but the bottom-line is that all these characters should be readily available via the keyboard in all languages.

  6. Olivier says:

    Are there any differences in the use of the hyphen, en dash and em dash between French and English?

    Warren: I agree, it’s a pity we can’t have ligatures in Adobe Garamond Pro. Typographical control for Zapfino (TT), on the other hand, looks quite complete.

  7. Warren Beck says:

    I just checked the keyboard shortcuts listing provided with the documentation, the on-line help, and on Apple’s Pages keyboard shortcuts web page, and there is no mention of dashes/hyphens.

    I’d like to complain additionally that, at least to my knowledge, there is no way to insert a non-breaking hyphen into a Pages document. In my chemistry-related documents, this is often a problem. Turning off hyphenation for a given paragraph doesn’t work, the hyphen apparently gives Pages the green light to do a line break.

    I have two unsatisfactory solutions to my problem: insert an n-hyphen or insert a negative sign character, which appears in many unicode fonts. Neither is very attractive, but I guess the latter is the preferred option. Both characters are non-breaking.

    Pierre, the main thing I don’t like about Pages is its general lack of typographical control. Things are better if a TrueType font is used. I would like to see the general features of OpenType (Adobe Pro) fonts being made available, but it appears that Pages (and Cocoa) makes full use of a font’s features only with TrueType fonts. See the following link:

    I am not holding my breath about this being fixed.

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