back to article Cortana threatens to blow away ESC key

Toshiba USA has revealed that it will add a key dedicated to summoning Cortana, Windows 10's digital assistant. Toshiba's Jeff Barney, the company's veep and GM for all things PC in North America, says the new button will appear on every keyboard the company sells. PCWorld reports that “the key will sit in the upper left area …

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  1. Phil Kingston Silver badge

    Engage

    Sultry

    Cortana

    No need to change the key. Which means it's good for the majority of the world where Cortana doesn't exist.

  2. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Well Toshiba firmly establishes itself in the consumer section...

    ...where laptops are just fashion toys and people gladly give away one of the most important keys on the keyboard for a gimmick they will tire of within a week.

    I mean even if you live in the Microsoft bubble the Escape key is important. It's what gets you into the menu of Word and Works.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Well Toshiba firmly establishes itself in the consumer section...

      Perhaps more importantly it's the accelerator key for the 'Cancel' button. In a properly written application that is.

  3. Loud Speaker Bronze badge

    Do people actually use these "digital assistants"?<p>

    I thought Clippy had demonstrated it was a dead end. Or do we now need an Emacs vs Cortana flame war?

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Nope

      Not after the first 10 minutes. Had a daft conversation with an IPhone toting friend about Cortana on my phone vs Siri on iPhone.

      Ground to a halt when we both had to admit that both Cortana and Siri were unused after the novelty value wore off.

      I don't think my wife even knows she has similar functionality on her BB.

    2. Mint Sauce
      Thumb Up

      Or do we now need an Emacs vs Cortana flame war?

      I know right? Who needs Cortana when you've got ELIZA :-)

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. dan1980

    Funny - my 'Escape' key is, thanks to Microsoft, now enjoying a great revival following a long period of disuse. It's the key that gets me out of that blasted full-screen "hey - your server has a touch screen interface, right? Well here are some tiles!" start menu.

    Being a Sysadmin, I am on dozens of MS servers daily, ranging from 2003 up to 2012 R2 and I now understand my father's constant grumbling at his cars - one with the indicator on the left of the steering column, the other with it on the right. He was always going around corners with his wipers on, just as I am constantly right-clicking the start menu on Win 2008 R2 servers and then left-clicking it on 2012 R2.

    Hence the newfound utility of the ESC key.

    1. VinceH Silver badge

      "Funny - my 'Escape' key is, thanks to Microsoft, now enjoying a great revival following a long period of disuse. It's the key that gets me out of that blasted full-screen "hey - your server has a touch screen interface, right? Well here are some tiles!" start menu."

      It's also jolly handy as part of the Ctrl-Shift-Esc combo to conveniently call up the task manager. Replacing it is "a bit silly"(tm).

      Mind you, it's just an assumption that they're going to replace it - on a decent keyboard, there is enough space between Esc and F1 for another key (though whether that's the case on gubbins supplied by Toshiba is another matter).

      1. jonathan1
        Happy

        Vince,

        Wow thanks for the PSA, I did not know about Ctrl-Shift-Esc combo! I alway right-clicked on the task bar...

        Love you guys. Always new things to learn :o).

        1. Haku

          Also try Alt-Esc and Alt-Shift-Esc combos :)

          1. Annihilator
            Happy

            "Also try Alt-Esc and Alt-Shift-Esc combos"

            I'm style over substance - it's the Win+Tab combo for me every time. I'm a sucker for Aero.

  5. frank ly Silver badge

    I'm in awe

    "... you'll prise my ESC key out from under my cold, dead, left pinkie."

    When I started using either thumb to press the spacebar, I thought I was advancing in my abilities but you're way ahead of me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm in awe

      I use either my ring finger (on combinations) or my middle finger to press the ESC - my pinky is reserved for typing or CTRL/SHIFT (i.e. combinations including the lower part of the keyboard). I can't see how using the pinky to hit ESC works - maybe with really large hands, where you can hit the ESC with the pinky without moving the hand from the typing position - that requires a pinky the length of the distance between the lower row of keys and the ESC...

  6. oldtaku
    FAIL

    These are the same dumbasses who thought it would be great to put the Fn key where the Ctrl key should be, so I'm not surprised at all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      my L430 thinkpad has the same problem

      I have a Logitech keyboard that fits nicely on my open laptop.

      Also, for all I care they could split the space bar and put the key there, since I only ever use my left thumb for spaces

    2. GrumpyOldBloke

      Fn key where the ctrl key should be - wasn't that Lenovo?

      Toshiba were reported as dumbasses that supported SOPA

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Not to mention HP, who decided it would be great for users to put another row of keys down the left hand side of the keyboard for quick access to things like calculator, print and a whole host of other stuff that we don't need keys for.

        And to top it off they put the print one beside the left hand shift key, so at least 4 times out of 5 when I'm typing on the wife's HP laptop and I want something in upper case, I almost end up printing the damn document out instead (or occasionally do so, if I'm not quick enough to catch it)...

        1. brotherelf
          Coffee/keyboard

          Depending on how it's done, it can be really nice, but I've never seen it done right (with proper keys) outside of Sun keyboards (and mmmmaybe in the middle-to-upper-range gaming keyboard sector).

          I know my "Help" key (conveniently located in the top left near the function keys), configured to spawn a terminal emulator, gets a lot of workout.

        2. VinceH Silver badge

          "Not to mention HP, who decided it would be great for users to put another row of keys down the left hand side of the keyboard for quick access to things like calculator, print and a whole host of other stuff that we don't need keys for."

          Not their only dumb mistake. My HP laptop came set up so that the Fn key was needed to use the actual function keys F1-F12, rather than Fn being used to access the extra functions such as volume up/down, wireless on/off, etc - those were the default actions.

          A pain if you use software in which the F1-F12 keys are actually used, as I do. If it wasn't just a BIOS change away, it would have been given a lesson in how easily glass breaks, what gravity does, and how hard concrete is*.

          * Umm. Or it might have gone back for a refund. On balance, in fact, this probably more likely.

        3. dc_m

          You missed the other important side effect there that really gets on my nerves. They shrunk the ENTER button to make the space.

          That was just rude.

    3. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      In Lenovo systems this is somethign you can change in the BIOS.

    4. Siv

      I am so pleased it's not just me, the Fn key in the bottom left corner causes me so much grief!

      Let's hope you can re-map the Esc key as serious users will hate that being used for Cortana.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ah, the mysteries of the keyboard in the 21st century.....

      "To start, press any key. Well where's the any key? I see Esc, Catarl, and PigUp. There doesn't seem to be any any key! All this computer hacking is making me thirsty. I think I'll order a Tab."

      1. Jimmy2Cows
        Thumb Up

        Re: Ah, the mysteries of the keyboard in the 21st century.....

        +1 internets for the Homer Simpson reference.

        Reminds me, must get a nodding bird toy for working from home. Not connected to any nuclear power stations so we should all be safe from catastrophic meltdown. Should be...

  7. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Cortana ...

    Go and delete yourself.

    I'm sorry Dave I can't do that.

    IMHO, this is another example of Microsoft fiddling while their empire burns all around them. (see icon)

    This tool might be useful on a phone (at least that's what the adverts tell us) but on a desktop? WTF?

    At least Apple haven't unleased Siri to the Mac users yet (AFAIK). now that would result in a lot of Fanboi gnashing of teeth and a hundred blog posts about ho to remove it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Re: Cortana ...

      How to remove?

      Click the button to turn it off....

      But I guess your used to a 3000 word cmd line?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cortana ...

        It's easy. Download 46 new utilities then pipe their outputs into some obscure configuration file.

        One kernel rebuild, recompile all your software and away you go! Who needs 'checkboxes'?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @AC - Re: Cortana ...

          Obscure configuration file ?! You make me laugh! Have you actually seem something more obscure than Windows configuration files ?

    2. Wade Burchette

      Re: Cortana ...

      In my beta testing of Win10 I have found that you cannot use Cortana without surrendering your privacy. I will not do that. I really have found that Win10 is mostly Win8.1 with a start menu that is like a mini start screen, multiple desktops, and even less respect for your privacy.

  8. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    I'll remap that key.

    You screw with a bog standard key to install a gimick in it's place, I'll remap it back to what it's been since before your company came into existence.

    Oh, and I'll be uninstalling that bitch so fast it'll make her subroutines collapse, because I don't want her, don't need her, & won't touch that rotten twat with a 3.05Meter pole. My desktop doesn't have a microphone attached, webcam, nor any means of you detecting what I'm doing except what I type in on the keyboard. MY keyboard, the one that I paid for. The one with the ESCAPE key that allows me to bring up various Windows systems without having to bounce through the Control Panel or the Start Menu.

    So add another key if you like, but don't remove one that is useful for one that is not. It annoys the hell out of us, makes you look like a diseased douchebag, and may make folks avoid your "broken" keyboards.

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: I'll remap that key.

      "You screw with a bog standard key to install a gimick in it's place, I'll remap it back to what it's been since before your company came into existence..."

      Really? https://www.toshiba.co.jp/worldwide/about/history.html

      We had escape keys on keyboards prior to 1873? Wow

      On a less pedantic note, I remember Toshiba laptops fondly from the mid-late '90s when I worked as a repair bod and although the hardware, build quality and customer support back then were first rate, they did have a penchance for dicking around with non standard keyboard layouts.

      1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

        @TonyJ re the Escape Key.

        The first mention of computers from the page you linked to is in 1984. Wiki claims that the Escape Key was present on TeleType Machines as early as 1849. So to answer your question, Yes. =-)

        Not that it matters to me actually (if Toshiba remaps the keyboard) since I use an external USB bog standard Desktop style keyboard even when using a laptop. Given all the permutations, possabilities, mutations, & variations between laptop keyboards, it's not worth the massive migraine it causes me to learn where they've hidden all the bloody keys from machine to machine. Far easier to plug in the external, close the laptop lid (I'm Blind & don't use the screen anyway), lay the keyboard on top, & go on about my merry way. Sure it takes up room in the laptop bag, but since it's one of those roll up, rubber membrane, floppy things it can be literally wadded into a ball & stuffed down into a corner.

        Besides, I love listening to folks wonder aloud just what the hell I'm doing when I've got the keyboard on my lap, the laptop still in the bag, & no visible computer nor monitor to interact with. Earbud in the ear to hear the Screen Reader, clicking away on the keys, and laughing to myselves at you poor Sighted Bastards whom need a Screen. Neener Neener Neener. =-)p

        1. TonyJ Silver badge

          Re: @TonyJ re the Escape Key.

          "...The first mention of computers from the page you linked to is in 1984. Wiki claims that the Escape Key was present on TeleType Machines as early as 1849. So to answer your question, Yes. =-)..."

          Do you have any evidence of this? Because according to these sources, it was invented in 1960 by Bob Bemer:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esc_key

          http://www.bobbemer.com/ESCAPE.HTM

          http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/07/magazine/who-made-that-escape-key.html?_r=0

          I am genuinely curious if there are documented uses of it prior to this.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: I'll remap that key.

      Hey Shadow Systems, don't sit on the fence, tell us what you really think.

      1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

        @Terry6 re my feelings.

        I tried to but the InterGalactic Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Sentient Beings keeps interdicting my signal & erasing it before I can hit the Submit button.

        It's almost as if they're afraid that my desire to have Cortana used as a-

        [The screen turns completely black with cool & calming green text that reads "This post has been deleted by the InterGalactic Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Sentient Beings to preserve your sanity. Nothing to see here, please move along."]

    3. Annihilator
      Paris Hilton

      Re: I'll remap that key.

      "You screw with a bog standard key to install a gimick in it's place, I'll remap it back to what it's been since before your company came into existence."

      Or, you could just not buy a Toshiba. Not sure what's stranger, Toshiba mapping the Esc key to Cortana, or you buying a Toshiba just to angrily re-map it.

      "Hello Tosh, gotta Toshiba?"

      "Yes, to keep my wrath warm for some reason"

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. grumpyoldeyore
      Coffee/keyboard

      Old Time Escape Key Placement

      Seem to recall it was in the top left corner on the ADM3a, but I confess I never really got on with those new-fangled numeric keypads....

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cortana lived a VERY

    short life on my Lumia.

    In a nutshell, you wholly surrender ANY privacy by using it.

    Besides, it's more effing trouble than its worth.. Novelty value only.

    And if Toshiba decide to surrender one of the more useful keys (unlike "F-Lock") then Toshiba is now struck off my ever shortening list of laptop manufactures i will use.

    FFS MS....Wake Up!!!!!!

    1. auburnman

      Re: Cortana lived a VERY

      It's the nature of the beast that if you want a digital assistant you give up privacy. Not just because the corporate monoliths want to know everything about you, but an assistant will HAVE to track your speech patterns, habits, friends and generally 'know' a ton about you to even get close to being as good as a human PA.

      The cynic in me wonders if the big 3 are pushing assistants so heavily precisely because you can't have a good assistant without surrendering data.

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: Cortana lived a VERY

        an assistant will HAVE to track your speech patterns, habits, friends and generally 'know' a ton about you to even get close to being as good as a human PA

        But why does it need Internet connectivity to do all this? Modern computers have plently of local storage. This is especially annoying on phones:

        Cortana, how do I get a network connection?

        I'm sorry, Dave, I can't tell you that without a network connection.

        1. auburnman

          Re: Cortana lived a VERY

          As I understood it voice recognition is not quite ready to be standalone with the oomph available on portable devices, although this information might be out of date. But if you were serious about using it as a personal assistant you'd have to tolerate Siri/Cortana/whatever having network access if only to answer questions like "Find out when the local B&Q shuts tonight".

          1. Sandtitz Silver badge

            Re: Cortana lived a VERY

            "As I understood it voice recognition is not quite ready to be standalone with the oomph available on portable devices, although this information might be out of date."

            I had a somewhat working speech recognition in OS/2 Merlin almost 20 years ago. My desktop back then was a 100MHz Pentium and while the experience could have been smoother it worked once you had taught it your speech patterns. Maybe it was handy for slow or disabled typers, the novelty soon wore off on me.

  11. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Windows

    Keyboards were fine before the Windows key (now redone in the Tiles styles) and the Menu key were grafted on the left and right of the spacebar.

    Now keyboards are smaller and seem to be made for the asian hand-size. The decent ones for people other than weak-willed office point-and-clickers where you don't accidentally hit F1 and keys actually "click" are sold as "gamer keyboards" and cost $$$.

    When will it stop....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why not just use the Windows key?

      For people who want to look like a dick talking to their computer, just remap the existing Windows key to trigger Cortana.

      I have no idea what the Windows button actually does normally, because I don't run Windows on any PC.

      However it works for the iPad, which has only one button: press and hold to summon Siri.

      1. StephenD

        Re: Why not just use the Windows key?

        Personally I find the Windows key useful for a variety of shortcuts: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/keyboard-shortcuts#keyboard-shortcuts=windows-7

        But I doubt anyone who will use Cortana is using any of those shortcuts (and vice versa) so your suggestion is sound.

        1. Little Mouse
          Windows

          Re: Why not just use the Windows key?

          Lucky me - My Dell keyboard has TWO Windows keys. I'm sure one could go and I'd never notice.

          Two Ctrl keys as well. What's going on there? The world's gone mad.

          1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

            Re: Why not just use the Windows key?

            Two Ctrl keys as well. What's going on there? The world's gone mad

            I think most keyboards have two control keys. VirtualBox uses Right-Ctrl to control window capture.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't think so!

    There are a few programs out there which use the ESC key...

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