UK International keyboard

Still trying to remember ALT codes for accented characters, or using Character Map to insert symbols? There is an easier way...

If you frequently work with foreign languages, you may well find it awkward to type accented characters, symbols or other characters not represented on the standard UK keyboard. This was a problem I also had, until I was introduced to the Windows "United States International keyboard", which is a keyboard layout you can install in Windows that enables you to easily type the accented characters used in major European languages, using the AltGr key on the keyboard to access the additional characters. The problem with the US International keyboard is that, as its name implies, it is based on the US keyboard and therefore double-quote, at sign, hash sign and so on are in the wrong place.

Fortunately, there is a little-known Microsoft utility called the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator (MSKLC, available here), which is ideal for inveterate fiddlers like me. I've used it to put together a UK International keyboard, based on the UK keyboard layout but using the principles of the US International keyboard (retaining, in most cases, the established positioning of the various accented characters and symbols). I have also extended the layout to include more symbols (typically, stuff that I, as a translator and editor, need to be able to type from time to time, but also anything else I thought might be helpful to other users) and to cover more languages.

Although the emphasis is on Western European languages, from version 2.0 onwards the keyboard also supports all European languages written in the Latin alphabet with many new letters and accents, and it now supports combining accent marks so in theory hundreds of combinations are now available. (Version 2.0 no longer supports superscript-1 or open bullet, but dagger and double dagger have been added.)

The layout

layout

Some explanation may be beneficial for those not familiar with keyboard-layout diagrams: the characters shown on the right-hand side of each key are those accessed by pressing the AltGr key at the same time as the key concerned, in exactly the same way as one uses the Shift key. The character bottom-right is accessed with AltGr, whereas the character top-right requires Shift-AltGr. Where only a capital letter in shown top-right with nothing underneath it, this indicates that both lower-case and upper-case versions are available; by convention, only the upper-case version is shown on the diagram. Symbols in red indicate "dead keys", which are typically used for accents; you type the accent, and then the letter you want the accent to appear over (or under, or through).

An innovation for version 2.0: all the dead-key accents can now additionally be used as combining accents with any letter (useful for really obscure stuff, or for languages that are not explicitly supported by the keyboard). To use an accent as a combining accent, type the letter first, then the accent, then press Space. (If you just want the accent and no letter, type the accent then full stop.)

The precomposed accented characters available using dead keys are:

grave (AltGr-`): aeiouwy
macron (AltGr-Shift-`): aeiouy
breve (AltGr-Shift-1): agu
umlaut/diaeresis (AltGr-2): aeiouwy
caron/hacek (AltGr-5): cegkrsz
circumflex (AltGr-6): aceghijosuwy
horizontal stroke (AltGr-Shift-;): dghlt, plus a (ª) and o (º)
acute (AltGr-'): aceinorsuwyz, plus ' for prime symbol
double acute (AltGr-Shift-'): ou, plus ' for double prime symbol
tilde (AltGr-#): ano
ring (AltGr-Shift-#): au
dot below (AltGr-Shift-\): hl
cedilla (AltGr-comma): cs
comma below (AltGr-Shift-comma): st
dot above (AltGr-Shift-fullstop): cghsz, plus l (l with medial dot), i (Turkish dotless i), I (Turkish capital I with dot)
ogonek (AltGr-Shift-/): aeiou
... but as mentioned above you can add any accent to any letter by using the combining accents feature.

Other special notes:
Shift-AltGr-7/Shift-AltGr-9: German open quotes
Shift-AltGr-0: degree sign
AltGr-fullstop: medial/decimal point (also used in Catalan: l·l)
AltGr-D is for Icelandic/Faroese eth; for barred d, use horizontal stroke (AltGr-Shift-;) then d.
Please note that some fonts may not contain all characters. In addition, combining accents may not work in some applications – indeed, in some applications they may only work some of the time. I find, for instance, than in Outlook 2003 combining accents do not work in HTML mail, but they do in plain-text mail. Weird, and totally outside my control.

Download/installation

The keyboard is made available as a Microsoft setup package, and also as a .klc file in case you want to edit it yourself (if you later distribute your own version based on this, please credit this site as the origin). It works in Windows XP, Vista and 7, I believe – although I cannot provide any guarantees on this front, and all the software you will be using or installing is Microsoft's and out of my control, so I cannot take any responsibility should something go wrong. It is supplied "as-is". Having said that, the keyboard has been installed and tested on a variety of PCs with no problems. The current version is 2.0; if you have any problems with this version due to the large number of character assignments, you might want to try version 1.2 or 1.1, which are simpler; however, I haven't encountered any problems with 2.0 yet.

Basic installation procedure in XP (your mileage may vary considerably -- this is just brief guidance): If you have an older version of the UK International keyboard installed, first uninstall that via Control Panel | Add/Remove Programs – you may then need to reboot before continuing (thanks, Microsoft). Unpack ukint20a.zip into its own folder. Open folder, run setup.exe; wait for ‘Finished’ message. Go to Control Panel | Regional and Language Options, Languages tab, Details button. You may find the keyboard has been automatically added for you (otherwise click Add; set “Input Language”: English (United Kingdom); set “Keyboard layout”: UK-International; click OK). Set “Default input language” to “English (United Kingdom) – UK-International”. Click OK. Click OK. If you can't get it to work, uninstall the UK International keyboard via Control Panel | Add/Remove Programs, reboot, and try again.

2.0 UK International keyboard (version 2.0) -- setup package, zipped
2.0 klc UK International keyboard (version 2.0) -- .klc (keyboard layout) file for MSKLC users

Old versions
layout
1.2 UK International (Western Europe) keyboard (version 1.2) -- setup package, zipped
1.2 klc UK International (Western Europe) keyboard (version 1.2) -- .klc (keyboard layout) file for MSKLC users
layout
1.1 UK International (Western Europe) keyboard (version 1.1) -- setup package, zipped
1.1 klc UK International (Western Europe) keyboard (version 1.1) -- .klc (keyboard layout) file for MSKLC users

Feedback welcome -- please e-mail Send e-mail (requires JavaScript). Due to time constraints, I'm afraid I cannot offer full support, but I hope you find the keyboard useful. It certainly makes my working day easier.


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