Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard): Fast user switching deselects input method

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
March 12th, 2008 • 1:35 pm

This is not a bug that affects the average English-speaking Mac user, but it affects those who use input methods rather than regular keyboard layouts. (Input methods can be added to the input menu in the top-right corner of the menu bar through the “Input Menu” tab in the “International” preference pane.)

I am an input method user, not because I speak a foreign language that requires one, but because I use Spell Catcher X, and Spell Catcher X works its magic through the input method architecture in Mac OS X:

Input menu with Spell Catcher input method

Regardless of which input method you use, however, you will experience a range of problems in Mac OS X, simply because input methods are not tested and supported as thoroughly as keyboard layouts are (which in turn are not tested and supported as thoroughly as the U.S. keyboard layout is). The problems are usually not deal-breakers, but they are annoying just the same.

One such problem, which, as far as I can tell, is new in Mac OS X 10.5, is that, if you use fast user switching to switch between user environments, then you will constantly have to reselect your input method of choice.

If you are currently using an input method and go to the fast user switching menu, as soon as you select another user, the dialog box to enter the password for that other user appears, and the appearance of this dialog box requiring a password causes Mac OS X to automatically switch from the current input method to the last-used keyboard layout. That part of the behaviour is not new in Mac OS X 10.5. I remember observing it in previous versions, and it is there presumably because input methods might interfere with the proper entry of a password.

What is new in Mac OS X 10.5, however, is that this switch is not reversed. In other words, once Mac OS X has switched from the input method to the keyboard layout, it does not automatically switch back to the input method when appropriate (i.e. when exiting the password dialog and returning to the user environment). Even if you just click on the “Cancel” button to exit the password dialog without actually switching to another user environment, Mac OS X still fails to switch back to the input method.

I don’t remember experiencing this problem in previous versions of Mac OS X. I am pretty sure that, after exiting the password dialog, Mac OS X would automatically switch back to the Spell Catcher input method on my system. It is no longer the case. It’s not a huge problem, but it’s annoying to have to remember to switch back to the input method each time after using fast user switching.

One Response to “Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard): Fast user switching deselects input method”

  1. Evan Gross says:

    This looks like a general Leopard problem with input methods and the authentication dialog, or perhaps any secure entry text field. Moving the component to the top-level /Library/Components folder helps somewhat, but not always.

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