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Add support in toolbar for special characters within DiscussionTools
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Description

The lack of a menu/editing tool to insert special characters (e.g. diacritical marks) can make it difficult for people writing in languages like French, Dutch, Hungarian to fully express what they are trying to using the New Discussoin and Reply Tools.

This task is about adding a tool within the New Discussion and Reply Tools' toolbar that enables people to select from a set of special characters while composing topics and comments using these two tools

Prototype

Updated 28 February 2021: https://patchdemo.wmflabs.org/wikis/86f00735362b0061ab7fdef1fd8c8a89/w/

Event Timeline

Google Translate gone really wrong way here. He mentioned “szerköf”, short for “szerkesztési összefoglaló” (edit summary), nothing about accented letters… These letters are present on the standard Hungarian keyboard, so inserting them is not an issue for the majority for the users; however, summarizing the key points of the comment in the edit summary really help for people getting to the discussion from RC, watchlist etc.

Google Translate gone really wrong way here. He mentioned “szerköf”, short for “szerkesztési összefoglaló” (edit summary), nothing about accented letters… These letters are present on the standard Hungarian keyboard, so inserting them is not an issue for the majority for the users; however, summarizing the key points of the comment in the edit summary really help for people getting to the discussion from RC, watchlist etc.

Woah. Thank you for saying something, @Tacsipacsi!

To make sure we are understanding user:pastille's feedback correctly, can you please confirm the following: In this comment, [1] user:pastille is expressing a need for a way to be able to write a custom edit summary for each comment they post using the Replying tool so people watching the talk page can quickly get a sense for the content of replies that appear on their watchlists?


  1. https://hu.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikip%C3%A9dia%3AKonzult%C3%A1ci%C3%B3_a_vitalapokr%C3%B3l_%C3%A9s_a_k%C3%B6z%C3%B6ss%C3%A9gi_kommunik%C3%A1ci%C3%B3r%C3%B3l&type=revision&diff=22425210&oldid=22425158

Almost. In fact, @Pasztilla just noticed that custom edit comments are not possible; @Samat made it an explicit wish; and the reasoning was made up by me, here on Phabricator (but I believe at least Samat had similar thoughts). This is how WP:BOLD works. ;)

Almost. In fact, @Pasztilla just noticed that custom edit comments are not possible; @Samat made it an explicit wish; and the reasoning was made up by me, here on Phabricator (but I believe at least Samat had similar thoughts). This is how WP:BOLD works. ;)

Understood! Thank you for explaining this, @Tacsipacsi. As a result of clarifying this, I've done the following

  • Removed user:Pasztilla's name from this task's description, seeing as how they were not actually requesting diacritical marks be included in the Reply tool's forthcoming editing toolbar. [1] (@Pasztilla if I've misunderstood your intent, please let me know!)
  • Filed a new task requesting support for customizing edit summaries for comments posted with the reply tool: T249391 [2]

  1. https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Talk_pages_project/replying#Version_2.0
  2. Regarding the prioritization of this task, we plan to revisit this task once we have completed work on Version_2.0. By this time, we are assuming a greater number of people will have tried the Replying tool and therefore, have a better sense for how usage of the tool is impacting peoples' watchlists. @Tacsipacsi, I'm sharing this extra level of detail so there is no ambiguity about how we are thinking about the priority of this task.

I propose to change the task description from diacritical marks to special characters.

I believe it would be very useful if we could reach a toolbar with special characters for all editing surfaces. I use very often the toolbar to insert characters are not part of our keyboard, but required by grammar (for example „” – … ° ‰ × → ∅ µ ² ³ ½ ⅓ etc.) or Greek characters used in mathematics...

I propose to change the task description from diacritical marks to special characters.

Great idea. Done.

I believe it would be very useful if we could reach a toolbar with special characters for all editing surfaces. I use very often the toolbar to insert characters are not part of our keyboard, but required by grammar (for example „” – … ° ‰ × → ∅ µ ² ³ ½ ⅓ etc.) or Greek characters used in mathematics...

Interesting – where do you find yourself using these kinds of characters most? In articles? As part of discussions? Somewhere else?

ppelberg renamed this task from Replying v2.0: add support in toolbar for diacritical marks to Replying v2.0: add support in toolbar for special characters.Apr 6 2020, 11:53 PM
ppelberg updated the task description. (Show Details)

I use them both in articles and in discussions often. I’m quite keen on typography, so I use for example curly ‘apostrophes’ and “quotation marks” wherever possible, including discussions and articles. (On huwiki, in contrast to enwiki, the curly ones are far more accepted in articles than the "straight" 'ones'.) Out of the above-mentioned ones, I use → a lot more in discussions than in articles, as that’s perfect when I try to explain where to find something (Preferences→Gadgets→…, More▼→Move etc.).

@ppelberg I use the toolbar and some of these characters very often (several times on a day) both for articles and discussions, and also for non-wiki activities (such as emails or texts for my professional work etc.).

Another use case, when somebody should write text on a language which keyboard is not installed on the used computer. For example I write text sometimes in German, but I cannot type German special characters (ß, ä, Ä, „“). Or I sometimes use computers of my company, where there is only German keyboard installed on the PCs, and I cannot type the Hungarian special characters.

A comparison: desktop VE has a Symbol menu and desktop "classic" editor can have CharInsert, but Structured Discussions and mobile VE(?) only have a language-input selector, no symbols.

On an iPad (I can't comment on Android tablets), the touch-screen keyboard supports a goood range of extended Latin-1 and emoji, but not many symbols. If I wanted to put (omega) above after "Symbol" I would need to go to Settings, drill down to Keyboard, and enable Greek, then turn it off again after I'm done. If I wanted to insert an arrow, then I dunno, does → work?

Aside: in this Phab box, I don't get any input selector, is that because of the platform I'm using?

Four methods for inserting characters:

  1. Physical keyboard
  2. On-screen system keyboard (touch or mouse, e.g. in Windows 10 you can easily access this on a non-touch device)
  3. On-page tools (toolbar, panel) – this discussion
  4. Copy-paste from elsewhere (what somebody else with the “right” keyboard wrote on the same page, character search on another website in a separate browser tab, external app e.g. charmap.exe)

(This is mostly for Peter:) I think that access to special characters should be prioritized because it's consistent with the 2030 Strategy and the movement values about inclusivity and accessibility. People may not have a keyboard that matches their language(s), or they may not be "tech-y" enough to know how to make their computer produce those characters.

Also, editors have been identifying this as something they need, whereas I don't think anyone's mentioned that they really need bold and italics. I think this should happen, and I think it should happen soon – maybe even before 2.0 is folded into the existing Beta Feature.

@ppelberg - I have to respectfully disagree with @Whatamidoing-WMF here. Adding an interface for inserting special characters is a large addition to the UI complexity of what is supposed to be a simplified interface. This would have been justified 10 years ago, but OSes and mobile devices have come a long way since then. It is now trivial on most devices to use diacritics (the main use case mentioned in the description) and pretty much all OSes now support easily switching between various international keyboards. This is essentially an OS problem, not an editor problem, and I don't think we should overload the UI with it (speaking as an editor, not an engineering director). If we're going to think about adding peripheral features like this and T249391 (which I'm also skeptical of), we need to look at ALL the features we are lacking compared to the full editor and rank which ones are the most important to carry over, and then choose the top 1 or 2 (which maybe you've already done). If we add every feature that is asked for, the Reply button will quickly turn into the full editor.

While the situation is improving, there are certainly a minority of users who still struggle with this. Also in many cases users may be used a shared device (e.g. in a library or school) so can't control the OS or install new IMEs. For a couple of languages this will be helped by the presence of https://github.com/wikimedia/jquery.ime, however I imagine there are others who just rely on the special character inserter.

We could probably get a grasp on what % of users use the special char toolbar in VE using our feature metrics, but even if it's 1%, I think @Whatamidoing-WMF has a point that inclusivity means caring about that under-represented 1%. I also agree with @kaldari that we need to be selective about what features we bring over to avoid cluttering the UI, so if we do decided to bring this over it will need to be done carefully.

(This is mostly for Peter:) I think that access to special characters should be prioritized because it's consistent with the 2030 Strategy and the movement values about inclusivity and accessibility. People may not have a keyboard that matches their language(s), or they may not be "tech-y" enough to know how to make their computer produce those characters.

Also, editors have been identifying this as something they need, whereas I don't think anyone's mentioned that they really need bold and italics. I think this should happen, and I think it should happen soon – maybe even before 2.0 is folded into the existing Beta Feature.

I don't want to push my opinion too much here and I don't want to say anything if this should be prioritize or not, but I would like to say, that Whatamidoing spoke from my heart and I think this is a feature which any type of text input tool should offer.

On the one hand, I think I haven't clicked in my entire life the bold or italic buttons, because I use the '' in wikicode or the CTRL+I or B shortcuts in visual mode. On the other hand, some special characters required by grammar and correct typography are not part of the keyboard layout (even if I use Hungarian keyboard layout), and if I would create a custom keyboard layout for them (which not many user would do), I should sacrifice one of the other, used key (which one should it be e, : or ! ?) With other words, there is no other easy way to correctly type (what we are very sensitive for in an encyclopedia), than using the toolbar.

This is a desktop user perspective, but I believe it is even more important on mobile devices, where the input options are even more limited.

On the one hand, I think I haven't clicked in my entire life the bold or italic buttons, because I use the '' in wikicode or the CTRL+I or B shortcuts in visual mode.

If we want to build an inclusive tool, these are just as important in wikitext mode. We know most-used wikicode syntax by heart, but the apostrophes and curly braces and other exotic characters are far from being intuitive for newbies.

This is a desktop user perspective, but I believe it is even more important on mobile devices, where the input options are even more limited.

I experience just the opposite. Of course, using a character map is not as easy as on Windows, but keyboards can be far more rich thanks to tap-and-hold extra characters. I use Google’s Gboard on Android, and I can insert things like proper quotation marks (“”, ‘’, „” etc.), dashes (–, —), arrows (←↑↓→), just to mention a few I use frequently; and I can easily switch to a русский or ελληνικά keyboard, and type much faster than I would if I had no visual clue (as is the case on desktop).

Hello, for Czech users could be useful Czech quotation marks („“). For all users I suggest en and em dash (– and —), plus and minus (±, +, −), tick (✓).

We could probably get a grasp on what % of users use the special char toolbar in VE using our feature metrics...

@DLynch what – if any – instrumentation do we have in place in VE to measure how people are engaging with the special character toolbar [i]?

A quick search of VisualEditor/FeatureUse_data_dictionary leads me to think we might not have any instrumentation in place to measure this.


i.

Another request for the special character toolbar surfaced on ja.wiki [i]. On mw.org [ii], ネイ shared the following context:
People at ja.wiki most often depend on the special characters toolbar to insert the following markup tags: https://w.wiki/dgo. In particular, <nowiki> and <code> and <ref> tags.


i. https://w.wiki/chP
ii. https://www.mediawiki.org/w/index.php?title=Topic:Vtyoeybmtt9a5gmg&topic_showPostId=vtyoeybmtx7cdkko#flow-post-vtyoeybmtx7cdkko

@DLynch what – if any – instrumentation do we have in place in VE to measure how people are engaging with the special character toolbar [i]?

We have no logging at all in VE or in WikiEditor for any interactions with the special character tool. It's less than would be expected for a toolbar item -- a quick look suggests that it's using window toggle as its command rather than window open, so it's missing the automatic logging.

@DLynch what – if any – instrumentation do we have in place in VE to measure how people are engaging with the special character toolbar [i]?

We have no logging at all in VE or in WikiEditor for any interactions with the special character tool. It's less than would be expected for a toolbar item -- a quick look suggests that it's using window toggle as its command rather than window open, so it's missing the automatic logging.

Interesting, okay. Thank you for getting to the bottom of this, David.

It seems like the next step then is to add this instrumentation. Here is the task for this work: T264146.

Another request for this, from the Polish Wikipedia.

And another request for this, from the Czech Wikipedia (user F.ponizil, private messages). He also wants special toolbar in source mode witch special characters [, ], {, }. I agree – it can be a quick way to add special characters.
Be the way, he also wants support for this type of discussion like this, see T259865.

Change 667417 had a related patch set uploaded (by Esanders; owner: Esanders):
[mediawiki/extensions/DiscussionTools@master] Add 'specialCharacter' tool to toolbar

https://gerrit.wikimedia.org/r/667417

"I wonder what we can do to avoid the collisions that ensue when trying to use the other text tools (linking, pinging, etc.) while the special characters interface is already open".

Having the inserter work with the link inspector is a larger project. It's an existing issue in VE, so I don't think it's critical here.

The interaction issue with the pinging is caused by another existing issue with the inserter where the surface loses focus. (T276164)

There seems to be a bug with the cursor placement on opening the dialog, but it looks like https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T276164 (which @Esanders referenced) will fix that. Other than that, the dialog has parity with the experience on article/page editing.

With that fixed, I think this is ready for QA testing cc @Ryasmeen

"I wonder what we can do to avoid the collisions that ensue when trying to use the other text tools (linking, pinging, etc.) while the special characters interface is already open".

Having the inserter work with the link inspector is a larger project. It's an existing issue in VE, so I don't think it's critical here.

@Esanders: do you know if this issue already has a ticket? If so, are you able to link to it here?

Is T276258 a blocker? I think it would be better to get the feature out as-is.

These characters:

–
—
≤
≥

and a non-breaking space were requested by @Nthep at https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Topic:W563che155jf0uv0

Is T276258 a blocker?

As I've been thinking about it, the blocker to the special characters toolbar being deployed is analyzing how the special character toolbar is being used (see: T266376) in VE, where it is already available.

@Esanders is there information that's leading you to think the special characters toolbar should be introduced before the analysis planned in T266376 happens?

Is T276258 a blocker?

As I've been thinking about it, the blocker to the special characters toolbar being deployed is analyzing how the special character toolbar is being used (see: T266376) in VE, where it is already available.

@Esanders is there information that's leading you to think the special characters toolbar should be introduced before the analysis planned in T266376 happens?

Today, @Esanders confirmed that in writing T249072#6880612 he was simply questioning whether T276258 should block the initial introduction of the special characters toolbar in the Reply and New Discussion Tools via T249072. Read: he was not meaning to question the deployment's dependence on T266376.

DECISION

  • We are not going to consider T276258 as a blocker to the special characters toolbar being released via T249072.
    • Reason: per what was discussed during today's team conversation, we see T276258 as an optimization that can be made once people first have access to the functionality.
ppelberg renamed this task from Replying v2.0: add support in toolbar for special characters to Add support in toolbar for special characters within DiscussionTools.Mar 31 2021, 7:28 PM
ppelberg updated the task description. (Show Details)