22 April 2007

Sigh, I remember when the Mac had *better* internationalization than Windows...

I've now been using both the Mac OS X and Windows input managers daily for months, and I've come to the reluctant conclusion that Windows now has a better Japanese input manager (for those of you who don't do the languages thing... "input manager" is the piece of software for Asian languages that allows you to type in multiple keystrokes to create a single character from the tens of thousands available).

The Mac still has an edge in terms of copy/pasting text, but falls down when some Kanji (notably the one for "ku" or "Ward", as in "Meguro-ku / 目黒区" often turns into an empty square symbol, even when other Japanese characters don't).

But the bigger differences are that the Mac OS X input manager is missing a couple convenience features that Windows has.

The most important by far is that Windows assumes a string of characters starting with a capital is an English phrase. So, when you're mixing a short English phrase in the middle of a long Japanese sentence, you just begin your phrase with a capital and you're done. On the Mac, you have to explicitly leave Japanese entry mode and return to English entry mode, which takes some extra keystrokes but even more than that, requires a mental shift (you have to always be aware which input manager mode you're on, on both OSes).

The other annoyance is that on the Mac, you can't exit Japanese mode mid-conversion. That is, if you've typed a few characters but haven't hit space to convert yet, the cmd-space sequence that normally changes input manager modes doesn't work. So if you mistakenly types a few characters, you have to backspace over them or hit escape, then hit cmd-space, type your English characters, and hit cmd-space again. Windows will let you exit from Japanese input mode at any time.

Mac OS always did much better at this in the past; it feels like another example of Microsoft patiently copying the good features over time.

P.S. However, yes, overall, I still prefer the Mac OS X user experience. ;-)

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