My father-in-law just stopped by because his new computer was giving him trouble. He was about to return his brand new Vista laptop because he found himself unable to configure his email accounts. The problem? He couldn’t type an ‘@’. It turned out he was running into the same issue that kept my own dad from succesfully typing in his WPA key when he bought a new notebook. The same issue that my wife’s laptop unboxing a frustrating one too. Windows was expecting a Dutch keyboard.
The origin of the problem probably lies in the fact that nobody in The Netherlands uses a Dutch keyboard. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen one. Every computer I’ve used has had a ‘US international’ keyboard, . Still, if you tell Windows that you’re in our little country, it will automatically set up a language profile ‘NL’ that uses this obscure keyboard layout.
Another rather strange default behaviour is that Windows will switch between the ‘EN’ and ‘NL’ based on which application is active. I can see how it might be convenient to switch between languages, but whether you’re using a word processor or a browser won’t change your keyboard layout. Unless you actually use a second keyboard with a different layout, you won’t need this behaviour. Ever. All it does is leave the user confused as to why he can type punctuation in one program but not in others.
The solution is easy enough. You can right-click the little language icon on the left side of your task bar and simply delete the Dutch keyboard setting altogether. But it really shouldn’t be this confusing. I’ve often blogged about how I don’t mind Windows, but this bit is simply braindead. And it’s not the functionality itself, it’s how it’s configured by default. That should be easy enough to fix, right?