Friday, March 03, 2006

Notepad.exe gone haywire?

A few times in the past, I've encountered a situation where I'll be in the middle of working when Notepad suddenly seems to go haywire. The text becomes right-aligned, some glitches come up in the text, the vertical scrollbar moves to the left side of the window, and the functionality of some keys such as the right and left arrow keys is changed or reversed:

I recently figured out what was going on. Apparently, there is a Windows shortcut key combination, Ctrl + Right Shift, that activates "Right to left reading order". (This apparently only works if the "Install files for complex script and right-to-left languages (including Thai)" checkbox is checked on the Languages tab in the Regional and Language Options dialog from the Control panel.) The Ctrl + Left Shift shortcut key combination restores the normal left-to-right reading order.

The "Right to left reading order" option is also available from the right-click menu of the Notepad window's text area when the checkbox is checked:

These shortcut keys are also effective in some other places in Windows, such as the Start | Run dialog.

I presume these features are in place to support right-to-left languages such as Hebrew and Arabic. However, what's up with the unusual Ctrl+Shift shortcut key combination? Most shortcut keys are don't involve *only* the Ctrl/Shift/Alt/Win keys, but involve one or more of those keys in combination with another keyboard key. (The times that I stumbled across the Ctrl+Shift keyboard shortcut in the past, I was probably doing something like Ctrl+Shift+RightArrow to add words of text to the current selection.)

It would be nice if the shortcut keys for this feature were assigned to something less easy for users to stumble across and activate by mistake, to avoid confusing users who do activate the feature by accident with the apparently "buggy" behavior when working in a non-right-to-left language.

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