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NRSI: Computers & Writing Systems


You are here: Input > Resources
Short URL: http://scripts.sil.org/inputtoollinks

Some tools and resources for character input

Character map / visual keyboard utilities

Character map utilities provide a means for entering any character using a graphical interface rather than the keyboard. Visual keyboard utilities are a variation of this that use a graphical user interface that looks like an image of the physical keyboard.

Note that all versions of Windows and also Mac OS X include a character map utility; earlier versions of the Mac OS include a visual keyboard utility, Keycaps, while version 10.3 (Panther) replaces this with a Keyboard Viewer palette available from the Input menu.

 BabelMap “BabelMap is a Windows character map utility that allows you to find and copy any Unicode character.”

Microsoft On-Screen Keyboard is a program that supports typing in more than one language on the same computer by showing you a keyboard for another language on your screen. You might use On-Screen Keyboard when you change your keyboard layout from one language to another. On-Screen Keyboard lets you see the keyboard for the language you’ve switched to on your screen so that you can either click the keys on your screen or see the correct keys to press to enter text. It is available on Windows XP from: Start / All Programs / Accessories / Accessibility / On-Screen Keyboard. On Windows XP and Vista the visual keyboard will not display output for AltGr-Shift-<key> or Ctrl-Alt-Shift-<key> (this was fixed in Windows 7). This utility is part of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Operating System. You do not need to download it. It is available from Start / All Programs / Accessories / Ease of Access.

 Office 2000 Add-in: Microsoft Visual Keyboard — Microsoft Visual Keyboard does the same thing as On-Screen Keyboard but works for Office 2000 and older Windows versions.

 Unicode character pickers — Pickers allow you to quickly create phrases in a script by clicking on Unicode characters arranged in a way that aids their identification. The phrase appears at the bottom of the screen and you can easily cut and paste the result into your own document. Pickers are likely to be most useful if you don't know a script well enough to use the native keyboard. The arrangement of characters also makes it much more useable than a regular character map utility.

  Office 2003 Add-In: International Character Toolbar — This add-in enables you to insert international characters from 26 languages into Office 2003 programs. You can do this in a single click without changing your keyboard or language settings in Office 2003. This download can be used with Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003, Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 (when using Microsoft Office Word 2003 as the editor), and Word 2003.

 Uniqoder — This add-in for Microsoft Word allows you to type diacritics, IPA, and other special characters very easily.

 Comfort On-Screen Keyboard — is a much better implementation of what Microsoft On-Screen Keyboard does. It is free for evaluation, but has no limit on how many days you can use it. Tip: choose the keyboard type “Standard2” or “StandardAlt1” for the standard 101- or 102-key keyboard, respectively.

 TypeIt — allows you to type foreign lanuages, IPA, and diacritics into a box and then paste wherever you need them, without a special keyboard.

Keyboard input methods


Quick tip

In Microsoft Word you can type the USV, such as "0259", select "0259" and type ALT+x. It will turn into .

Windows keyboard layouts

 South African Unicode Keyboard

IPA Unicode Keyboards
This page contains keyboards created for typing in IPA data.
On Windows, three keyboarding options are available: an IPA Keyman keyboard and keyboards which work through the Windows keyboarding system (MSKLC) for US, UK and BR keyboard layouts.
We also now provide an IPA keyboard for Linux as an Ubuntu package.
Installable keyboards for Mac OS X version 10.2, designed to allow entry of Unicode 5.0 IPA characters. Includes Dvorak version.

Known Unicode Keyman Keyboards
This is a list of SIL Unicode Keyman keyboards as well as some other websites which have Unicode Keyman keyboards available for download.

Legacy Fonts and Keyboards
The fonts and keyboards on this page are considered "legacy" solutions. As such, they are made available for use and downloading, although Unicode solutions are encouraged.

Mac Unicode keyboard layouts

Collection of Unicode keyboard layouts for Mac OS X.

 Tom's Custom Keyboards — a further collection of Unicode keyboard layouts for Mac OS X, supporting a wide variety of languages.

 IPAkeys IPA Unicode keyboard layout for Mac OS X. [Note: Sept. 2008 this link wasn't working, so it may be broken.]

 IPA Palette v2.1 IPA Unicode Input Method for Mac OS X 10.5 and later. A free Unicode character palette input method for the International Phonetic Alphabet. This palette is compatible with the Hiragino font shipped with Mac OS, the Doulos IPA (Doulos SIL) font supplied by SIL, and other IPA Unicode fonts. The software enables point-and-click character entry into Unicode-compliant software under Mac OS X. (Previous versions of IPA Palette are also still available, to support legacy systems.)

IPA Unicode Keyboards
This page contains keyboards created for typing in IPA data.
On Windows, three keyboarding options are available: an IPA Keyman keyboard and keyboards which work through the Windows keyboarding system (MSKLC) for US, UK and BR keyboard layouts.
We also now provide an IPA keyboard for Linux as an Ubuntu package.
Installable keyboards for Mac OS X version 10.2, designed to allow entry of Unicode 5.0 IPA characters. Includes Dvorak version.

 Keyboard downloads at RedleX A collection of keyboard layouts and tool links hosted by the makers of the Mellel word processor for Mac OS X.

 Sorin Paliga’s page at the University of Bucharest, offers some additional keyboard layouts designed for academic/linguistic use.

 Aramaic Keyboards for Mac OS X Unicode keyboard layout for Syriac Standard Phonetic.

 Jawi Kit for Mac OS X, including both fonts and keyboard layout supporting Malaysian Jawi script.

Hebrew Greek Transliteration Keyboard for Mac OS X, based on US Extended keyboard.

Linux Unicode keyboard layouts

IPA Unicode Keyboard

Nubian KMFL Keyboard

Ethiopic KMFL Keyboard

Quick tip

You can type any Unicode character on Ubuntu by pressing ctrl+shift+u and then typing in the hexadecimal codepoint.

Reference info on OS-supplied layouts

 Windows Keyboard Layouts (From Microsoft Global Development site)

Tools for creating keyboard input methods


 KMFL Keyboard Mapping for Linux is a keyboarding input method currently being developed under Linux which aims to bring Tavultesoft Keyman functionality to *nix operating systems. KMFL is being jointly developed by SIL International and  Tavultesoft . It is being released under the GPL license.


Ukelele A Unicode Keyboard Layout Editor for Mac OS X versions 10.2 and later.

KeyLayoutMaker A script to create Mac OS X .keylayout files from simple lists of the keystrokes and Unicode output required.

 Unicode Keyboards for Mac OS Web-based tool for creating new Unicode keyboard layout files from a list of keystrokes and desired output characters.

 Apple Font Tools suite Despite the name, Apple's OS X Font Tools package includes tools that can convert between 'KCHR', 'uchr', and .keylayout formats; useful for updating legacy keyboard layouts for Mac OS X. There is also a compiler for XML .keylayout files, which may be useful for diagnosing problems.

 Installable Keyboard Layouts Technical documentation on the installable keyboard layouts supported by Mac OS X 10.2 and later.


 Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator A tool for creating keyboard layouts using the Windows-native keyboard file format for seamless integration with Windows 2000 and later.

Tavultesoft Keyman A powerful tool for creating keyboard input methods. Keyman allows for more complex input processing than does Microsoft's tool that may be useful for some writing systems, such as Indic scripts that involve non-linear order, or syllabaries that involve hundreds of characters. It does not use the Windows keyboard driver format, however.

Comparing Keyman and Microsoft Windows Keyboard Layout Creator
This table offers a comparison of the capabilities between Keyman and Microsoft Windows Keyboard Layout Creator.

Keyboard-related registry keys in Microsoft Windows
This document lists a number of registry keys and file types and locations that are used for keyboard management in Windows, and also some Keyman-specific settings.

Page History

2007-05-30 LP: added link to Uniqoder

2007-04-23 LP: added link to Comparing Keyman and Microsoft Windows Keyboard Layout Creator

2007-03-15 JK: added link to Tom's Custom Keyboards

2006-07-11 LP: fixed cardbox link

Backlinks (20 most popular; affiliated sites and popular search engines removed)

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