Hotkey standard notation?

Subject: Hotkey standard notation?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2001 08:49:56 -0400

Rachel Berrington wonders: <<With regard to writing hotkey commands (writing
a series of keyboard steps such Ctrl - Shift - F7, for example), is it a
standard practice to use hyphens between the different keynames? One of the
writers here believes that the plus ("+") sign should be used in place of
the hyphens and that there is an international standard for doing so. We've
researched the styleguides for both Microsoft and Sun Microsystems, and have
found that Microsoft advocates using the plus sign, while Sun advocates
using the hyphen.>>

The fact that two heavyweights such as Microsoft and Sun disagree on this
issue is pretty good evidence that if there is a standard (which I doubt),
nobody's paying any attention to it. I actually prefer the plus sign
(mirabile dictu--and sorry, Janice!--Geoff actually agrees with Microsoft on
something! <g>), but have used both as the whim takes me. I see no de facto
advantage to either approach. It's a simple matter of style, and that being
the case, pick the one that most fits with your whim and be consistent in
using it. Nothing's as confusing to users who read something expressed one
way on page 1, and another way on page 10: "Hmmm... now the plus has changed
to a minus, so I guess I should hold down the option key instead or the
hyphen key this time..."

Of course, if you're a _real_ geek, you could use the approach Jef Raskin
(The Humane Interface, Addison-Wesley 2000) used in his book: he actually
went to the trouble to use up and down arrows in his notation to indicate
when a key was depressed (the key name is followed by a down arrow) and when
released (the key name is followed by a up arrow). That's certainly
unequivocal, but far too intimidating in appearance in end-user

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"The most likely way for the world to be destroyed, most experts agree, is
by accident. That's where we come in; we're computer professionals. We cause
accidents."-- Nathaniel Borenstein


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