Using Smia with a Mac running Vista

MacBook Pro KeyboardSome language versions of the MacBook Pro keyboard do not provide easy access to some of the keys used by Smia (and other modelling/programming tools as well).

If you experience this problem, here is how you can fix it.

I am running Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate on my MacBook Pro.

The first time I encountered problems with my MacBook Pro keyboard, was when I tried to write some C++ code on my new Mac. I could not find the backslash (\) key on the keyboard!

I found out that I had to switch my keyboard layout to English in order to get access to the backslash. That, however, meant that many of the labels on my keys no longer corresponded to the characters that were input when hitting the keys. So this was a bad solution.

The second thing I could do, of course, was to use the numeric keyboard and input the backslash using ALT+092. As the MacBook Pro does not have a separate numeric keyboard, I had to use the Num Lock function key in order to switch on and off the numeric keys for each backslash I wanted to enter. Really not very convenient, as each backslash required the following key sequence:

  1. Fn+NumLock
  2. ALT+Num 0
  3. ALT+Num 9
  4. ALT+Num 2
  5. Fn+NumLock

There are also other keys that I had a hard time to locate on my keyboard. In particular, the following: [|]{}.

So I started to look for a way to edit the keyboard layout on my Mac. The first thing I tried was to use Microsoft's own Keyboard Layout Creator. However, the MSKLC refused to display the keyboard layout so I could edit the key definitions. After checking on the Internet, I found that many people experience the same problem. It is two years since Microsoft released its MSKLC, but nothing seems to be done in order to correct the buggy application. (The program worked Ok when I ran it on my daughter's Mac, which runs Windows XP).

Some searching led me to KbdEdit. I purchased the product (cost me around NOK 200) and installed it on my Mac. It worked immediately, was easy to use, and helped me set up my keyboard just the way I want it. I was even able to put the Dynaplan logo ≈ on a key.

Here is the main keyboard assignment that I made:

Key Shift AltGr Shift AltGr
7 / | \
8 ( [ {
9 ) ] }

The two first columns are the standard definitions for the respective keys. The two last columns hold the modifications that I made in order to get easy access to [\]{|}.

I think the placement of the brackets [] and braces {} on the same key as parenthesis () really makes a lot of sense. The same goes for \|/, which are now put on the same key on my MacBook. Easy to remember, and easy to use.

Since the Mac does not have a right mouse button, I also redefined the numeric enter key NumEnter on the Mac to the apps key (VK_APPS).

If you would like to change the keyboard layout on multiple computers, you will have to buy a separate licence of KbdEdit for each computer.

My advice is to try Microsoft's MSKLC buggy program first, and if it does not work, try KbdEdit. (KbdEdit has demo version that you can use to see if and how it works before deciding to buy it or not).

Comments

Since Mac mice typically do not have a right mouse button, some typical Windows and Vista functions can be hard to access using a Mac. In particular, context menus that are opened using right click can be impossible to access.

In Smia we have now implemented support for the Application key, present on Microsoft keyboards. If you reassign the NumEnter key Numeric Enter as described in my original post, you can use that to open up the context menu of the item in focus, even on a Mac!

Keys for opening context menu:
Application key Application key (Microsoft)
Numeric Enter key Numeric Enter key (Mac)

 

 

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