Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 17th Jun 2015 13:51 UTC
Windows Windows is an old and complex operating system. It's been around for a very long time, and while it's been continuously updated and altered, and parts are removed or replaced all the time, the operating system still houses quite a few tools, utilities, and assets that haven't been updated or replaced in a long, long time. Most of these are hidden in deep nooks and crannies, and you rarely encounter them, unless you start hunting for them.

Most. But not all.

There's one utility that I need to use quite often that, seemingly, hasn't been updated - at least, not considerably - since at least Windows 95, or possibly even Windows 3.x. Using this utility is an exercise in pure frustration, riddled as it is with terrible user interface design and behaviour that never should have shipped as part of any serious software product.

This is the story of the dreaded Character Map. I'll first explain just how bad it really is, after which I'll dive into the little application's history, to try and find out why, exactly, it is as bad as it is. It turns out that the Character Map - or charmap.exe - seems to exist in a sort-of Windows build limbo, and has been stuck there since the days Microsoft scrapped Longhorn, and started over.

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Comment by henderson101
by henderson101 on Wed 17th Jun 2015 14:40 UTC
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it simply does not accept scroll wheel input. Instead, the font dropdown menu at the top of the window always has scroll focus.

Well, scroll wheel does nothing, but your comment about the focus seems to be wrong. Not here, not in Windows 7. The font combo only has focus if I click on it.

You can do this by double-clicking the character, or by pressing select next to the input field. You then need to select the character inside the input field and copy it (either by keyboard shortcut or by pressing copy).

Select the character? Are you sure? I don't think so. Copy button just works for me.

Character map was designed to build up a group of characters, so this is why it's quirky. Also, double clicking seems reasonable to me - it was the first thing I did when I just opened the app for the first time in a very long time. I've always used it to type a word.. you'd type the parts of the word you can type normally in to the text box, so say: "el capit", then use the app to find and type "á", then type "n". Press "copy" button (you don't need to select the text first) and paste it in to your document. If you want any more than that, using a keyboard mapping wins over the character map app every time. "el capitán" <-- there, I just did it for you to verify what I'm saying is true.

Honestly, whenever I type in any language for more than a few hours, I install the character map. Japanese works extremely well, Swedish on a British keyboard sucks a little as it screws with the layout, but Programmers Polish is extremely easy to get on with as it uses pretty much the standard layout. This won't work for everyone, but for me it's way superior and addresses your complaints without needing a new app.

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