What character can I use to represent the space bar?

  • I provide the user with a list of key sequences that lets the user type only with ASCII characters and generate various Unicode characters. This is what they see in the sequence list window:

    character list

    My problem is that some sequences use Space, and using a space character in the “Sequence” column makes things confusing.

    So I tried using {spc} but it’s not very aesthetically pleasing, because it takes too much place. Then I tried (U+2423) but I think it’s too easy to confuse with _ (underscore). In short, none of the following solutions were really satisfying:

     spc ␣

    Can someone maybe suggest a single non-ASCII character that I could use, which would make it clear to the user that they are supposed to press Space as part of the sequence, while not taking too much screen space? Due to the limitations of the framework I am using (AutoHotKey) I would strongly prefer not having to rely on rare fonts/symbols or to use colour.

    Why not `{space-bar}` or even `{space}`?

    For the same reason I didn’t like `{spc}`: it’s too verbose (I’ll make that more clear in my question) and I was hoping there was a single replacement character that might convey enough meaning.

    Why is verbosity (or rather the length of the term used) a problem? Surely being able to convey meaning is preferable? Are there fixed space constraints in place? I'd always choose comprehension over aesthetics.

    The major problem is that it makes the “Sequence” column very wide, because it adapts to the width of the longest sequence. But you’re right — there is no reason why I couldn’t use it, and I think it’s worth making that suggestion an answer.

    This particular ASCII chart uses `(sp)`. Emacs documentation (and the editor itself) use `SPC`. `SP` may not be immediately clear but would be shorter. Also there is `␠`.

    Also, it doesn't *really* matter if the data in the column is wider, it will have no impact on the column width if its still narrower than the word "Sequence" in the header. `{sp}` can work in that regard.

    Tangetially: I hope your abbreviations are compatible with RFC 1345 character mnemonics.

    The one with ␣ looks good. I have seen ␣ used many times to represent space

    Back when the internet was young, I had a "Programming" teacher in high school who wrote spaces on the white board as a 'b' with a forward slash through it. I'd always wondered where that came from.

    @Armstrongest it’s Unicode symbol U+2422 BLANK SYMBOL ␢ (as mentioned in one of the answers below).

    @samhocevar You have closed a chapter in my life with a happy ending. Thank-you for pointing that out to me. I would love to know where the symbol came from, so now I shall search for U+2422 on the interwebs.

  • I had similar task — the dialog that showed specific keyboard shortcuts for map editing software. To solve such a case I've used visual keyboard button representations with labels on it — it took some space (and increased a visual noise a bit), but was ultimately obvious to most users:

    Keyboard shortcuts

    RC — Create new rectangle with it's centre in mouse position

    RTL — Create new rectangle with it's top-left corner in mouse position

    RSpace — Display list of possible options for new rectangle

    Ctrl — Move to nearest left object


    Thanks. I eventually went for this solution. It required changing the GUI toolkit but the end result is a lot more satisfying. See http://i.imgur.com/kSt8ptX.png

License under CC-BY-SA with attribution

Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM