When I switch to another language rather than English in Libra Office I can't select my whole text with CTRL+A, because now I have switched to non-English language.

Isn't it better to select text in every case like something that Microsoft Office does? Or when an application is switched to another language should that also change the shortcut key combinations?

  • 1
    I think you answered the own question. Global keywords not only decrease learning curve, but eleminate modes as well, that leads to usability improvement. Jan 13, 2014 at 17:28
  • This is an interesting question, but likely only applies to a subset of users...those that swap the language their OS is in. Ideally, whether or not the shortcuts change should be a user preference separate from the language one.
    – DA01
    Jan 14, 2014 at 0:10

4 Answers 4


Microsoft Office shortcuts also depend on the product language. What might happen is that you simply changed the spellchecker language, but not the Word language, so the shortcuts remained the same. Take a look at the Office word shortcut differences between English and Portuguese.

One difference between the two languages is that pressing CTRL+A:

  • English: Selects all text available
  • Portuguese: Opens a document

And this approach makes much sense since you can easily memorize by association:

  • English: CTRL+All
  • Portuguese: CTRL+Abrir (portuguese word for open)

Now, you if take your approach, you are making all portuguese people remember that in order to open a document they need to press ctrl+o, which will be difficult to remember since there isn't any portuguese word started with "o" that has the meaning of "open an existing document".

Your argument about being difficult for you to switch from one language to another only shows that if the key bindings are not "correctly chosen" users will have an hard time figuring them out. And of course by "correctly chosen" I mean something that makes sense in your native language.

Of course there are some things to take in consideration like conventions that are widely spread, and might not make sense but everyone already used them. From the top of my head I can remember the CTRL+X, CTRL+C, CTRL+V, from which only CTRL+Copy makes sense, but since everyone uses the other two, you should not go around and create different keybindings for cutting and pasting.

  • It seems obnoxious that when I type in Portuguese I have to remember kinetically a whole new set of shortcuts. Is this across all programs (chrome, photoshop), or just office? Jan 13, 2014 at 19:54
  • @VoronoiPotato jff was also mentioning product language, which is different to input language, but the question is asked in pretty general terms (even if the example given is input language). When you change your product language in particular, what is obnoxious about changing shortcuts to ones that are conventional or make sense in that language? Jan 13, 2014 at 22:49
  • @JonathanHobbs alexey's answer is much more comprehensive than I could provide in a comment :) Jan 14, 2014 at 13:25

Keep the shortcuts as global , it's not like there's a word called zundo, or vaste.

  • But there are words that mean the same thing but start with different letters in different languages.
    – DA01
    Jan 14, 2014 at 0:09

We have typically three languages installed on the systems in our country, which are English, Russian, and Ukranian. From both my personal experience and teaching experience, I'd say the shortcuts should be global.

The reasons are:

  1. Cognitive load. Many documents require two languages, so users switching languages rather frequently. Switching shortcuts introduce mode, so user should be awared of the current mode. However, it's no easy task because of weak visual feedback of the current language. Checking the mode requires additional actions and increases cognitive load. This checkings don't allow to transfer shortcuts usage to automated human's actions.
  2. Learn and memory. Learning shortcuts for each language for the same action requires more time, more mental, and cognitive efforts. Low learnability and memorability lead to errors, see the next item.
  3. Errors. There is a high risk of slips, where the intention is right, but choosen shortcut is wrong. Errors lead to low user satisfaction.
  4. Weak semantics. Some argues the shortcuts are easy to remember because they have strong semantics, i.e. Ctrl + O, where O is for Open, etc. Partly it's true. Still, we have Ctrl + K for hyperlinK (in MS Office). The worse problem is many users (espacially non-tech) have very weak knowledge of English. So shortcuts are a sort of magic for them, having no semantic meaning.
  5. Help and support. Changing shortcuts for the each language make hard to support users and require developing help and manuals for each language.
  6. Previous experience. Using global shortcuts allow to exploit previous user's experience.
  • I am all for global shortcuts too - because I am also someone who switches environments with different localizations. But I am afraid that most users spend their life with systems localized to a single language (especially the ones in the large, rich countries where companies like msft started to localize early), and so there is a good argument to be made that the products should be optimized for their needs. And, due to both tradition (these shortcuts have been present since the 90s) and strong semantics (in Germany, Ctrl-K is italics, from kursiv), localized shortcuts can be preferable.
    – Rumi P.
    Jan 14, 2014 at 10:59
  • Thank you for comment, @RumiP. Indeed, when localization is a part of product early development strategy, it works good, as the users learn early or use previous experience. Still, Ctrl-K for italics doesn't change to Ctrl-I when you switch to English. So localized shortcuts are global, too. Jan 14, 2014 at 11:39
  • I meant that I am for "global" shortcuts in the sense that I would love it if Microsoft would use Ctrl+I for MS Office localized to any language. Or the exactly same keyboard button as "I" when there is a different keyboard layout. These shortcuts are saved in my muscle memory; while Ctrl+Z is still Ctrl+Z on German products, using it on a Qwertz keyboard is a pain :( I agree that Ctrl+I is global within an English installation of MS Office, no matter what spellchecking language you choose, but this doesn't help a person who works on different machines and has no control over the localization
    – Rumi P.
    Jan 14, 2014 at 11:46
  • Can you provide a day-to-day example when you need two languages for the same document? From my observations I don't see non-expert users switching frequently between languages. Non-expert users start learning the system using their native language and stick to it. I'd argue that the majority of non-experts will have a difficult time simply changing the system's language.
    – jff
    Jan 14, 2014 at 13:03
  • It's not just for when you want two languages in the same document, because the shortcuts are stored in your muscle memory and not your language memory when you go to type in another language you have to rethink what the shortcuts are and that costs enough time that you'd sometimes rather not use the shortcuts.Furthermore go ask a non-expert user what different shortcuts are and then what they stand for, you'll find that they know what the shortcuts are but have no clue what the word it relates to it is. Jan 14, 2014 at 13:30

If someone is using a computer, they're probably already familiar with such shortcuts. And everyone uses some english language app, so they know the common shortcuts. Don't make them remember more than one shortcuts and which app uses which.

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