Filling In The Gaps With Open SourceFilling In The Gaps With Open Source
I turn to open source software for a lot of things -- not just the fact that it's almost inevitably free for personal or internal business use, but that it's often written by and for people who have very specific problems that need solving. They're <em>little</em> irritations, problems that typically don't get attention from commercial software makers, and which can be recycled into other solutions by dint of being open source. Here's a local example.</p>
May 14, 2008
I turn to open source software for a lot of things -- not just the fact that it's almost inevitably free for personal or internal business use, but that it's often written by and for people who have very specific problems that need solving. They're little irritations, problems that typically don't get attention from commercial software makers, and which can be recycled into other solutions by dint of being open source. Here's a local example.
One of the reasons I haven't been able to use OpenOffice.org as broadly as I'd like is the fact that it doesn't have a native feature I use constantly in Word: user-editable stacked keybindings. In Word, if I want to type accented characters -- "é", or "ö", or the like -- I can do that by typing a control-character sequence. For "é", it's Ctrl-', then the letter E. These keybindings are totally user-configurable and can even be saved on a per-document-template basis. With OO.o, inserting special characters is a bit of a hassle -- you either have to insert them by hand, create a macro to handle such things, or use an extension to get around this limitation.
After a while, though, I realized the problem wasn't really with OO.o, but Windows as a whole. There were plenty of other programs I used -- Firefox, Windows Live Writer, Pidgin, etc. -- that I wanted to use stacked keybindings in, and couldn't. And as much as I like Word, I'm not about to type everything in it.
Enter a little program called AllChars, available in a 4.0 revision for Windows 98 through XP and a 5.0 alpha-test version for Vista (with Unicode support), and an open source / GPL project to boot. It extends the kind of stacked-keybinding behavior I've described here to the whole of Windows, so I can now type special characters using whatever stacked-key syntax I like. The key sequences are totally user-configurable and are stored in an XML file; it took only a couple of moments to edit it and add in a few characters I used constantly, like an O with a macron.
In the past I've toyed with some other programs that have done similar things, some open source and some not, but I've settled on this one for now. The fact that it's open source also means it has that much more of a lease on life than other freeware tools that are not. I can't count the number of times I've come across a piece of freeware I've picked up, enjoyed, and then had to abandon when its authors vanished (and the code along with them). The less I have to put up with such frustrations, the better.
[Footnote: I forgot to mention that the *NIX OSes have had compose-character functionality for a while now -- Linux included -- which is a possible reason why it wasn't added in OpenOffice.org.]
About the Author(s)
You May Also Like
The Forrester Wave™: Vulnerability Risk Management, Q3 2023
Ultimate Guide to Building a Data Governance Program
Responsible data use: Navigating privacy in the information lifecycle
Checklist: 7 Essentials for Securing Modern Applications
Cyberthreats Racing Ahead of Your Defenses? Secure Networking Can Put a Stop to That