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Introduction

Writing systems
-   Western alphabets
-   Non-Western alphabets
-   Phonetic and offbeat
-   Varying glyphs
-   CJK
-   Miscellaneous

Solutions
-   -
Types of fonts
-   Inserting single characters
-   Inserting diacritics:
á, à, â, ä, ...
-   Keyboard layouts
-   Input methods
-   Multilingual browsing
      For most languages, installing a specific keyboard layout and fonts will suffice. (You will have to configure certain programs, e.g. e-mail clients, separately.)

Please note that certain keyboard layouts supplied by Microsoft constrain your ability to choose a font.


 Contents
 

Installing another keyboard layout
Switching between keyboard layouts
Modifying a keyboard layout
More links

 
- - -
   
                 
                 
   

Installing another keyboard layout

      Open the Control Panel (Start menu | Settings) and double click the keyboard icon or the globe icon. The remaining steps are easy to find out.

During the process, be sure to make the locale icon be displayed on the system tray (it should read
EN etc.). You can do this by checking the option "Enable indicator on taskbar" or by enabling the "Language bar", depending on your version of Windows.

NB During this process, the system might ask for the Windows installation CD.

Making the current keyboard layout visible by way of the
On-screen Keyboard (Start menu | Programs | Accessories | Accessibility) will help you to get familiar with it. (This facility is available in recent versions of Windows.)
   
                 
                 
   

Switching between keyboard layouts

      In case several keyboard layouts have been installed on your system, you can switch manually from one to another using the key combination assigned from the Control Panel (usually Alt + LeftShift), or clicking the icon EN (etc.) you can see on the system tray.

(If you cannot see that icon, enable the indicator as explained on this page.)

In
VTrain (Vocabulary Trainer), there is no need to do this, thanks to its automatic keyboard layout switch function!
   
                 
                 
   

Modifying a keyboard layout

      Although recent versions of Windows provide keyboard layouts for many languages, sometimes it is necessary to devise a customized layout. For instance, the layout of some fonts in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is difficult to remember. On the other hand, some users do not want to take their leave of the good old QWERTY layout and would like to have a similar layout for a foreign language.

For this purpose, you can use either a resident program to
remap the keys as you type, or edit a native Windows keyboard driver (*.kbd or *kbd.dll) to create a new one.
   
                 
            In fact, you can design your own keyboard layouts, thus making access to special characters easier. There are two ways of doing this:

Keyboard remappers     Keyboard driver editors  
. . . . .
. . . . .
3-D Keyboard
EasyKeyboards95
Keyboard Remapper
KeysPlus
KeyTweak
MultiKey
Keyman
AllChars
IKB
Older software
  EasyKeyboards95
Keyboard Layout Manager
Janko's Keyboard Generator
Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator (MSKLC) Recomm.
 

These two kinds of programs act the following ways, respectively:

  "Live" keyboard remappers override the native Windows keyboard driver (layout) with a virtual keyboard layouts, by way of a resident program that remaps either (a) keys, (b) key combinations, or (c) key sequences to user-defined characters or strings.
E.g., you may want to allocate the combination ALT+D or the sequence "d_" to the character ð [Icelandic Eth].
The disadvantage of this method is that some of these programs interfere with other macro and automation tools.
  Keyboard driver editors edit the keyboard drivers i.e. the native Windows keyboard drivers (*.kbd for Windows 95, or kbd*.dll for Windows NT/2000).
The
disadvantage of this method is you may have to log off to test your results.
 

Our recommendations in each category: (1) Keyboard Remapper, (2) KLM.
   
                 
   

Keyboard
Remappers

      3-D Keyboard 2.52 - ($20, 45-day evaluation)
Use up to 13 different keyboard layouts. They can be edited through a comfortable drag & drop over a virtual keyboard. Although the font displayed is always ANSI, you could also use this app to remap keyboards in other font codepages.. You can assign a CTRL-shortcut to each character. "Third symbols" (right Altgr key) and dead keys are considered. (Cannot be installed into a second level path on your hard disk, e.g. not under c:\Program files\3dkbd.) Limited support of right-to-left writing (Arabic). We could not make it work in Windows2000.

EasyKeyboards95 -This keyboard layout editor has also keyboard remapping capabilities. See below.

Keyboard Remapper 0.89 - by D-System ($15-35 Shareware)
Can switch between two layouts. Layout edition: virtual keyboard, comfortable drag and drop. Unique feature: supports
all  combination keys (even Alt and new Windows keys) and any combination of them, what yields up to 42 sublayouts per layout! Dead keys are customizable. Customize fonts for display.
Interface in four languages (you can edit your own source code). Plus: supports right-to-left writing (Hebrew, but not Arabic) in your favorite text processor.

Keys Plus 4.1.9 - ($20) supports characters 0-255. It allocates key combinations (with Ctrl and Alt keys) to the characters to be printed. Editing custom layouts is easy with this tool, since it is done visually, by way of a character map.

Bugs: Keys Plus does not work well with Unicode-compliant programs when you use it with a non-Western Windows keyboard layout (at least on a Western Windows version). But Keys Plus works fine with VTrain, so you can use it with any keyboard layout with our flashcard trainer.

KeyTweak 2.2 - (freeware) supports Windows 2000 and XP. Changes the Windows Scancode Map registry key to remap your keyboard, but this means you cannot use it to remap single characters on your keys (e.g. 4 or $) nor key combinations, but only the keys themselves (e.g. [4 $]). But, in turn, this tool is very useful to switch off the "Windows" keys on your keyboard or to change the "Tab" key into a "Ctrl" key, for example.

MultiKey - [no version number] (freeware) supports all Unicode characters. It allocates a character sequence to each goal character. Here, editing your virtual layouts is done by changing a plain text file containing ASCII code numbers. This is quite awkward when dealing with non-ANSI alphabets!

Very interestingly, the MultiKey package includes collections of key sequences for several scripts (Latin, old and modern Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Russian). It is fully Unicode compliant.
With MultiKey, switching across languages and other formatting options can be eased even more under MS Word by way of MS Word macros supplied with MultiKey.
An important extra of MultiKey is that it even allows typing right-to-left (Hebrew, Arabic) in virtually any application (!).

Bugs: in Windows NT, MultiKey behaves chaotically when you use the right Shift key in the right-to-left input mode, and the system may hang up when you start or switch over to Windows Explorer. In Windows 95/98, if works fine.

Keyman 5.0 - (shareware; older versions available as freeware) allocates characters and edits layouts in a similar way as MultiKey. It claims to accept Unicode fonts: this will work fine in Windows 2000, but in older versions of Windows you will need a complementary software named Wordlink to use it with Microsoft Office.

AllChars 3.6 - (freeware) works on characters ranging 0-255 only, so it is not Unicode compatible. Therefore, you need fonts where the extended characters of your target language lie within that range. It allocates the characters to a sequence of CTRL-key plus two characters. Your virtual layout files (.ini) files can be edited via notepad, and there are some examples available for download from the site (French keyboard, Central European, Baltic and Turkish alphabets). This is certainly more awkward than the visual edition approach of Keys Plus, but this app may be a choice if Keys Plus happens to interfere with your goal applications in some way.

Last,
IKB (International Keyboard) 1.5 - ($10) supports a non-configurable selection of Western and mathematical Unicode characters.
It converts typing sequences of CTRL-key followed by two letters into an extended character. Fault: virtually none of the alphabets of Eastern European languages is fully supported by this application. (Of course, non-Roman alphabets are
not supported either.) A more careful selection would have made this neat, stable application a software tip.

Older software
Accent 2.0 by pro++ Software. Freeware. It can only input ANSI (i.e. Western European) characters, and some of them (Spanish ¿, ¡) are not considered.
Accent Composer 1.0 (http://www.kovcomp.co.uk) Shareware. Uses two-character customizable sequences or hotkeys.
Compose for Windows 1.64. Freeware. Uses mnemonic access. Windows 3.1 looks.
Setkey 1.2 by Maciej “MACiAS” Pilichowski (macias @ class1.phys.uni.torun.pl -) Freeware. Uses hotkeys. Awkward to assign (you have to press ALT+code).
   
                 
   

Keyboard
driver editors

      EasyKeyboards95 1.57 - ($10) can generate keyboard files for both Win95/98 (*.kbd) and WinNT4/2000 (*kbd.dll). Note: development of this program was discontinued. See Keyboard Layout Manager below.
This is both a keyboard layout editor in native Windows format and a keyboard remapping tool.
Easy character assignment to every key using a virtual keyboard and an internal character map. You can set the font to view the virtual keyboard. Fault: it cannot assign dead keys nor recognize dead keys in native Windows layouts (they are mapped to the character "?"). This was mended in KLM (see below).
Evaluation version is fully functional.

Keyboard Layout Manager Lite / Medium / Pro / 2000 - ($15-65) similar to latter, but evaluation versions are not fully functional. They display a picture of the keyboard showing the layout for all key combinations, so they are very convenient to use. Dead keys customization is only available on "Pro" versions of these programs.

Janko's Keyboard Generator 4.2 - (freeware for private use), will only generate Win95 / 98 keyboard files (*.kbd). Interface similar to EasyKeyboards discussed above.

Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator - (MSKLC.exe) generates native Windows layouts for Windows 2000/XP. Recommended!
   
                 
                 
   

More links

      International Keyboards: Theory, Charts & Tips - (for the QWERTY keyboard)    
                 
                 
   
     
   
    Updated: 2008 January 17
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