Some spelling systems, such as DRE
are based on the use
of letters marked with diacritics or accents. One of the
with such systems, for their developers as well as their users, is how
to type these letters using an ordinary computer keyboard.
method supported by Windows is to enter an obscure 3-digit code (144
means É) while pressing the Alt key. A less
method is hard to imagine.
A better approach, on versions of
Windows that support it
such as Windows XP, is use of the USA International keyboard
This keyboard mapping, described in some detail on this
allows one to easily enter all the accented characters included in the
Latin-1 character set. I don't care for it, for two reasons:
I am a programmer. Its use of the apostrophe and the quote mark as dead keys is a very serious inconvenience when one is writing code.
I find the assignment of keys not particularly to my taste, especially for the umlauted vowels.
As it happens, Microsoft has made a very
available for designing keyboard maps, the Microsoft
Keyboard Layout Creator (MSKLC). This utility
lets you create your own keyboard maps to taste, subject to the
limitation that the software and the maps run only on Windows 2000 and
Windows XP. Using this utility, I've designed my own keyboard
mapping, the Wyrdplay Internotional (WI) map, supporting the entire
Windows-1252 character set.
There is no way
to assign symbols to a keyboard map that
will be completely logical, but at least the WI map is somewhat
systematic, and I find it considerably better organized for my purposes
the USA International mapping.
It is hard
to know whether anyone else might find it useful, but it is available
for download here, if
anyone wants to try
it. Using the Keyboard
Layout Creator, you can modify the WI map to taste, and, if you dislike
only a few things about it, fixing those will be an easier task than
starting from scratch.
(To install the WI keyboard map, do the
Unzip wyrdo2.zip, and extract wyrdo2.msi and i386\wyrdo2.dll.
which will ask you to confirm you wish to install it. After
installation is complete, go to the "Regional and Language" Control
Panel category, and select Language/Details. This will allow
to add WI to the language bar and/or to make it your default key
mapping. Note that if you decide you have no use for the WI
keyboard map, you can uninstall it using "Add or Remove Programs" in
the Control Panel.)
Keyboard maps generated by MSKLC have
two techniques for
entry of additional characters (assuming you don't want to change the
meaning of any of the regular keys). One is the use of the
right-Alt key as a modifier, with or without the Shift key, and the
other is the use of "dead keys". A dead key is a key which,
struck, is not immediately interpreted, and which may combine with the
next key to form a different character. For instance, with
USA International keyboard map, typing the backquote key (`) followed
the letter a generates the character à. The normal
for a dead key is still accessible, if you follow the dead key by a
space, or by any character with which it does not combine. If
wish to type the sequence `Boo!', I can type the characters
if I wish to enter `Aha!', I must space after the ` to avoid generating
The Wyrdplay Internotional keymap uses
only one dead key
on the regular, unshifted, un-Alted keyboard, which is the backquote
key. This is a character which is not used by sensible
programming languages. The combinations defined for this key
When the right-Alt modifier key is used,
generated by the WI keyboard mappping are as follows:
Similarly, the characters generated when right-Alt is used together with Shift are as follows:
The shaded keys are dead keys. The dead key most likely to be of use is the right-Alt-backslash (\) key, used mostly for entry of circumflexed vowels. The other dead keys have been defined for logical completeness, and also to allow for entry of some of the really obscure Windows-1252 characters, like the dagger (†) and the script f (ƒ).
A few notes about the right-alt-keys assignments:
When the right-Alt key is applied to a vowel (a, e, i, o, u or y), it adds an acute accent. Similarly when applied to a consonant associated with a unique Windows-1252 letter (c, d, n, t or z), the associated letter (ç, ð, ñ, þ or ž) is produced.
Vowels with a dieresis (other than o and y) are produced by a consonant adjacent (or, in the case of u, nearly so) to the vowel. Thus right-Alt-b is ä, right-Alt-f is ë, right-Alt-j is ï and right-Alt-w is ü. ö breaks the pattern with assignment to right-Alt-v, to allow right-Alt-p to be used for the bullet point and paragraph symbols. A mnemonic for this is the word "vowel". The ÿ symbol is very uncommon, and is generated using a dead key.
Right-Alt-g and right-Alt-h, which have no obvious assignment, are assigned to the ligatures œ and æ respectively. To remember which is which, observe that the letter G resembles an O and H resembles an A, at least more closely than the alternative. Remembering the h at the end of the word "ash" (the name of the æ ligature) may also be helpful.
The spelling "kopyright" serves as a mnemonic for the use of right-Alt-k for © and, when shifted, ®.
The British pound symbol is assigned to right-Alt-l on the (obvious) basis of visual similarity. The shifted right-Alt-l is a generic currency symbol, assigned via its association with £, a mnemonic for the shape of which is the word "lozenge".
Right-Alt-m is a somewhat obvious assignment for the micro symbol (a Greek mu) and the trademark symbol. As is right-Alt-p for the bullet point and the paragraph symbol.
Right-Alt-q and right-Alt-r are assigned to the Danish vowels Ø and Å on the basis of (somewhat fanciful) visual resemblance.
right-Alt-s is assigned to ß, the German sharp s, on phonetic grounds. ß has no upper case, leaving the shifted right-Alt-s free for the section symbol. The Slavic š letter, which could have been assigned to right-Alt-s, is instead assigned to right-Alt-x. This may prove hard to remember - a potential mnemonic is the word "anxious", in which the x is pronounced, like š, as sh.
The mappings for the right-Alt-numeric keys and right-Alt-punctuation keys have been considerably changed from the previous version of the WI keyboard, generally by interchange of the meanings of the shifted and unshifted keys. This version makes the more commonly used key the unshifted one, even if analogy to the regular keyboard would suggest the opposite.
The assignment of ã and õ to right-Alt-7 and right-Alt-8 is fairly arbitrary. As a mnemonic, recall that 7 resembles an A and 8 resembles an O, at least more closely than the alternative. Despite their presence as right-Alt keys, I find myself using the ˜ dead key when I need these characters.
Right-Alt-hyphen and shifted right-Alt-hyphen represent an em dash and an en dash respectively. The macron, which used to be the shifted right-Alt-hyphen, has been moved to the right-Alt-tilde due to its infrequent use.
The keys associated with the
right-Alt-backslash key are
follows. When it does not combine with the following
it generates the ¬ symbol. The combinations are as
|¬ß => š||¬§ => Š|
|¬ž => ž||¬Ž => Ž|
The combinations with the acute-accented letters are a convenience, allowing you to type both keys of â while pressing the right Alt key.
The dead key for right-Alt-bar (a
provided as a convenience for entry of the upper-cased circumflexed
letters, keeping the right-Alt and shift keys pressed for both
letters. When it does not combine with the following
it generates the ¦ symbol.
combinations are as follows:
|¦§ => Š|
|¦Ž => Ž|
The other dead keys are not so useful, but are described here for completeness.
The right-Alt-apostrophe key, which
generates an acute
accent (´) when it fails to combine, is used to generate
accented vowels. This is more conveniently achieved by
the right-Alt key simultaneously with the vowel, but I have defined
this alternative for completeness.
The combinations are as follows:
The right-Alt-2 key, which generates a cents sign (¢) when it fails to combine, is used to generate a hodge-podge of characters, most of which are unique to the Windows-1252 character set, and none of which is normally very useful. The combinations are as follows:
|¢f => ƒ|
The right-Alt-backquote key,
generates a tilde accent (˜) when it fails to combine, is
generate characters with this diacritic. All of them are
available more easily using the right-Alt modifier, although
right-Alt-7 for ã and right-Alt-8 for õ may prove
difficult to recall unless these characters are used frequently.
The right-Alt-equals key, which generates an plus-or-minus (±) when it fails to combine, is a dead key producing ligatures. All of them are available more easily using the right-Alt modifier, although the assignments may prove difficult to recall unless these characters are used frequently. The combinations are as follows:
The right-Alt-double-quote (shifted apostrophe) key, which generates a dieresis (¨) when it fails to combine, can be used to generate umlauted vowels. These symbols can be generated more easily using the right-Alt modifier key. The combinations are as follows:
The above has described the basic
keyboard, which limits itself to the Windows-1252 character set.
I have developed two further keyboards along the same lines,
including additional Latin characters from Unicode of potential use to
spelling reformers. I will not describe these keyboards in
here, as I know that most people who find their way to this page have
no interest in spelling reform. One is the WI reform keyboard, which adds
the six characters č, ğ, ħ, ǐ,
ŭ and ű (plus their uppercase equivalents),
and is useful for writing in my Arbdash
spelling system. The other is the WI
keyboard, which adds a number of additional accented characters (such
as ā, ŏ, ũ, ŵ and
ỳ), as well as a subset of the IPA applicable to
English. Use the links above to download; the zip files
documentation on how the additional characters are mapped.
comment on this page,
e-mail Alan at wyrdplay.org