Pages: More on keyboard shortcut for en dash

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft, Pages
March 10th, 2005 • 1:11 am

Yesterday, I posted an item about the apparent lack of a keyboard shorcut for the en dash in Pages when using the Canadian CSA keyboard layout.

Well, I was wrong. For many years, the application in which I have used the en dash most often has been Microsoft Word. (It was just too risky to use it in most other applications, especially in texts intended to be shared with other people with different systems and different software applications.)

So I had simply got used to the keyboard shortcut for the en dash available in Word. Or rather, I had got used to the keyboard shortcut that I had defined for myself in Word. See, the default shortcut for the en dash in Word is cmd-Numpad- (i.e. holding the Command key down and then pressing the Minus key on the numeric pad), which is rather inconvenient. (Who wants to go all the way to the right edge of the keyboard to insert a dash?)

Thinking that this default shortcut was the only one, I simply did what I do most often with Word in such situations, i.e. I customize it to my liking. Instead of cmd-Numpad-, I assigned cmd-hyphen to it. And all was well (sort of).

Occasionally I would have to insert an en dash in InDesign, but then I would just use the menu command for this in InDesign, since it wasn’t very often.

Then Apple released Pages and I started using it and discovered that there was apparently no shortcut for the en dash!

A reader commented that the en dash was readily available on his keyboard using option-shift-hyphen. I tried it on mine and got an inverted question mark. I then thought that it was, yet again, a problem with the Canadian CSA keyboard layout I use that doesn’t affect users of the US keyboard layout used by the majority of American Mac users, and therefore had not been noticed by Apple engineers. (I say “yet again”, because it wouldn’t be the first time that using a keyboard layout other than the US layout would turn out to be a problem. Do a search for “Canadian CSA keyboard layout” in this blog to read more about this.)

But then another reader sent me an e-mail informing me that option-shift-= should work for me. And indeed it does!

Now, this is nothing new. Obviously this shortcut for the en dash has been available in the Canadian CSA keyboard layout for years. The question is: How did I miss it?

The reality is that, quite honestly, sometimes one gets irritated by the numerous flaws and bugs in the software one uses, and one assumes that another problem one encounters is simply yet another example of sloppy or careless programming. And one really has fairly reasonable grounds to make such assumptions, because of numerous (and very real) similar problems that one has experienced over the years. Yet sometimes one is wrong. In this particular case, the flaw doesn’t exist, and the software does have the feature needed, and it does work as expected. It’s just that it’s not entirely obvious, or maybe not fully documented. Today’s software titles have some many features that one can be forgiven for not knowing about all of them and about exactly how to access them, especially when it varies depending on which keyboard layout one is using and when some third-party applications that one has been using for years provide an alternative interface, further confusing the issue.

To put it more succinctly, one makes mistakes. But one readily admits them. :-)

So the bottom-line is that, with a Canadian CSA keyboard, option-shift-= works as a shortcut to insert an en dash. Everywhere — including in both Pages and Word. Amazing!

5 Responses to “Pages: More on keyboard shortcut for en dash”

  1. Pierre Igot says:

    The Canadian CSA keyboard layout is only for French-speaking Canadians. English-speaking Canadians use the US keyboard layout (as far as I know).

    The Canadian CSA keyboard is actually pretty good for French. It’s even better than the French keyboard layout they use in France (the AZERTY one), which has fewer accented characters accessible directly.

    I don’t have any idea what the US Extended one is for either :).

    The way I see it, it’s still going to be a long time before Unicode is so ubiquitous and so well supported that we don’t have to worry about international issues anymore. And even then, we’ll still be limited by our respective keyboards :). The keyboard shortcuts issue is not going away any time soon.

  2. Jussi says:

    Whether en and em dashes are easy to find depends 100% on the keyboard layout being used.

    In this respect I’m quite happy with Apple’s Finnish/Swedish layout. It is very logical, one can find both en- and em-dashes in the same key than hyphen, one just alters it with option and option+shift. Very logical, as some other things too. Unfortunately there are issues with this layout too, the main problems for me are keyboard shortcuts involving curly brackets and brackets, they do not always work as expected and are much harder to use than on US keyboard :(

  3. Warren Beck says:

    I am still getting used to the new, Unicode keyboard-dependent way of entering text in the Mac OS X “native” Cocoa applications. The main problem I have had is that this way of thinking is rather different from the way things were under Mac OS 9, and I think Apple has not documented adequately how the user should approach things.

    Pierre, I’m still getting used to the US keyboard. There is a “U.S. Extended keyboard” on my input menu, and I’m not sure what it is good for.

    Lastly, it would be interesting to know the motivation for the “Canadian CSA keyboard”; how is it different from the “U.S. keyboard,” and why would a Canadian (or an American :-)) choose one or the other.

    In my opinion, this new stuff makes the work more complex than it used to be. It is certainly not clear that it is better if one works solely in English. I am aware from my work with LaTeX that the non-English languages have been impeded for years by restrictions from the U.S. character sets, so I guess that the Unicode way is a big step forward for those who need to type in French, etc.

    Apple certainly could do a better job of documenting this stuff.

  4. Pierre Igot says:

    Jussi: Same here with shortcuts involving brackets. I am told the German keyboard layout also has a single key for all the hyphens, which makes sense. I guess the Canadian CSA keyboard layout just makes things a bit more complicated. Would be interesting to research the history of how these various keyboard layouts came into being.

    Evan: I am aware of the Keyboard Viewer palette, but it’s not always easy to identify characters such as the en dash with such a visual representation of the keyboard, because the characters drawn on the keyboard are quite small. It is also not the most efficient way to find a particular character. In that respect, the Character Palette is better, since it has groups of characters. But it doesn’t have the keyboard equivalents…

    Thanks for the links to the software utilities!

  5. Evan Gross says:

    One way to easily check out what-key-does-what for the currently-chosen keyboard layout is to open the Keyboard Viewer (you may have to turn it on in System Prefs, International, Input Menu), then start pressing modifier keys.

    You can use the Keyboard Viewer to see differences between various keyboard layouts (even while typing or pressing & holding keys on the keyboard) by switching from one to another while the Keyboard Viewer is open. Showing the Input Mode Palette and using it to switch keyboards instead of choosing from the input menu can make life easier as well.

    So if you want to know what US Extended is all about, just open the Keyboard Viewer, choose US Extended, and snoop around by pressing various modifier keys. Try this and you’ll see that the basic difference between US Extended and US is that US Extended exposes many more combining marks (dead keys, call them what you want). Many of these on the US Extended keyboard will product Unicode-only characters (that’s why US Extended is in the “Unicode space”).

    Actually, it’s really quite easy to create your own keyboard layout – at least since OS X 10.2. There are some utilities out there to help (editing the XML is a bit hairy):

    Ukelele (tried an early version – it’s even better now)
    Keyboard Builder (haven’t tried this one)

    A new version of Ukelele was released in January, and I just took a peek. It looks really, really good (I played with an older beta of 1.0, and this is version 1.5). You want to learn/modify/create your own layout, with the keys JUST the way YOU want – without having to edit the XML directly – Ukelele is THE tool. Plus the documentation is better than Apple’s own on this particular topic.

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