Dashboard: Calculator widget now works with other decimal separators

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
February 7th, 2006 • 2:43 pm

Since I reported on this bug earlier on, I thought it only fair to report that it has been fixed in Mac OS X 10.4.4.

In versions of Tiger older than 10.4.4, it was impossible to use anything other than the period as a decimal separator in the Calculator widget in Dashboard. Given that the default decimal separator on the numpad on extended keyboard depends on which keyboard layout is being used and that many countries/languages outside the US/English use decimal separators other than the period, this was rather unfortunate.

For example, in French the decimal separator is the comma, and on my Canadian CSA (French-Canadian) keyboard, the decimal separator in the numpad is indeed the comma. So when I want to type a number like “3.14” in French with the numpad, I typically type “3” followed by that decimal separator key down there at the bottom followed by “14.”

Well, in versions of Tiger older 10.4.4, when using the Calculator widget, this would fail miserably. The Calculator widget would ignore the decimal separator altogether.

I am pleased to report that the bug has finally been fixed in Mac OS X 10.4.4. Better still, the Calculator uses the correct separator for thousands, which in French is a space (as opposed to the comma used in English). In other words, the Calculator widget now correctly uses the number format specified in the “International” preference pane, under “Formats.”

The reason why it took so long for Apple to acknowledge and address this particular bug (which I reported many months ago when Tiger was still in beta) is probably related to the underlying technologies used for widgets (JavaScript, CSS, etc.), which are not intrinsically designed to comply with Mac OS X-specific settings such as number formats. There are other similar examples of this: Dashboard widgets do not use the font smoothing style selected by the user in System Preferences either.

This is the kind of thing that makes you question the appropriateness of the technology choices made by Apple here. If such fundamental aspects of the underlying OS are not supported by default and need to be supported through bug fixes and workarounds after the fact (if they ever are), then maybe the underlying technology used for Dashboard widgets is simply not appropriate and further imperils the consistency of the user interface experience in Mac OS X.

While Apple could simply not afford to ignore the problem with the decimal separator in the Calculator widget for too long, since it affects millions of non-US Mac users worldwide, I seriously doubt that they will be fixing the problem with font smoothing any time soon. After all, they haven’t fixed it in Pages 2 either, where it’s probably even more irritating.

It is really discouraging to think that it might be years before Mac OS X achieves a level of user interface consistency that is truly excellent. It seems that, each time new features are added, they introduce yet more inconsistency. Will Mac OS X always be in an endless race against itself?

2 Responses to “Dashboard: Calculator widget now works with other decimal separators”

  1. ssp says:

    Hehe, one of my pet Dashboard bugs… but even the patch seems quite strange: For example, it seems that both the comma and dot keys are now accepted on systems with the dot as a decimal separator. Furthermore pressing a comma key won’t cause the key cap on the calculator to be replaced by its pressed variant. So while someone at Apple fixed things, they made sure not to do it all the way…

    see also http://earthlingsoft.net/ssp/blog/2006/01/widgets

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    Right you are, although the dot/period has always worked for me in the regular Calculator application as well, so I don’t think it’s new in the widget (and it’s not really a problem, when you think about it).

    The failure to make the key look depressed is definitely a bug, especially in light of the fact that the key looks depressed when you press… shift-, to insert the dot/period :).

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