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When I choose my country (Norway) I get two options:

  • Norway
  • Norway - Eliminate dead keys

What is meant by "Eliminate dead keys"? What does that do? Which one should I choose?

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up vote 30 down vote accepted

There are keys like the hat (^) or other French accents. These only take effect after pressing another regular key on your keyboard. One could say they simply modify the second key pressed. Those keys are called "dead keys" and are a special variety of the "modifier keys". They are dead in the sense that nothing happens when you press them by themselves. Until you press another key (or press them a second time), you will not see any change.

Example for the French "accent circonflexe" (aka. hat or circumflex ^) on a regular layout with dead keys:

^ --> results in nothing

^ & a --> results in --> â

^ & ^ --> results in --> ^

^ & ^ & a --> results in --> ^a

"Eliminate dead keys" causes those so called "diacritic marks" to appear on the first keypress (not modifying the character typed after that).

Same example with "Eliminate dead keys" layout:

^ --> results in --> ^

^ & a --> results in --> ^a

^ & ^ --> results in --> ^^

^ & ^ & a --> results in --> ^^a

The main purpose of dead keys is to enable you to type seldom used characters easily without taking up too much space on the keyboard. On my keyboard I would type a Norwegian (Norse) å with the combination ° & a.

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A well written and an instructive answer! – N.N. Aug 10 '11 at 10:02
Does that mean that with "Eliminate dead keys" selected, I wouldn't be able to type an â if I needed to? – Svish Aug 10 '11 at 10:58
With "Norway - Eliminate dead keys" you can only type ^a. With your normal "Norway" keyboard though you can type â by first pressing the ^ located to the right of your Å and then typing a regular a. – con-f-use Aug 10 '11 at 11:36
Deal. Guess I might have to go with the regular then. Thanks for good answer :) – Svish Aug 10 '11 at 11:48

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