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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Using Solaris input methods

In the previous post, I told you about the compose key and how to use it to generate characters not found on your keyboard. I decided to write this two posts because I've got a problem after ordering a series of Sun Type 7 keyboard along with the Sun Ultra workstations we've bought.

The problem is simply stated: our developers are Spaniards and the keyboards are English keyboards. Stated another way, the developers didn't know how to produce the characters of the Spanish language that don't (explicitly) appear on any key. I'm speaking about ñ, á, é, í, ó, ú, ü. If you read that first post, you already know that's no great issue: just use the compose key. Unfortunately, this solution wasn't well received by the guys at the office and I suspect it's a matter of laziness. You should know that, except for the ñ character, to produce accented letters on a Spanish keyboard you usually input two keystrokes: the accent followed by the character. Using the compose key would involve three keystrokes instead of two: I suspect that all the resistance was due to this detail.

With the due respect to everybody's customs, I gave it up and let them buy a few bucks keyboard at the nearest mall and packed the Sun keyboard back again.

Using Solaris input methods

Nevertheless, there's another way to produce such characters without using the compose key and the solutions are the input methods. As far as it concerns this use case, an English keyboard and an European language, the input method is pretty trivial and really resembles the compose-key solution. The first step is configuring input methods.
  • Go to Menu/Preferences/Input Methods.
  • Be sure that input methods are enabled:
  • Choose the languages you want to input:
  •  Choose the combination key to activate it:

Now, you're ready to use Solaris input methods. Using the combination key you chose, in my case Ctrl+Shift+Space, you can switch input methods and start using it. In the English/European method, you can introduce accents just as usual: type the accent followed by the letter you want. This method is more powerful than the traditional Spanish keyboard in that you'll be able to introduce characters you could not type instead: ĺ, ń, ŕ, etc. You never know what will come next.

It's not that difficult and you easily get used to it.

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