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New "International" keyboard for Windows users

Since I wanted access to the entire Latin-1 repertoire of characters, I installed the "United States (International)" keymap. Unfortunately, it's sort of a pain to use, since some regular keys are defined as "dead keys" (you hit the key and then another to produce a character). The most irritating is probably the quote key, which is a dead key to add acute accents when unshifted and to add umlaut/diæresis when shifted—this resulted in a lot of accidental accents whenever I forgot and tried to type a quote mark normally (under US-International, you have to type the quote key and then space to get a quote). So, I created my own keymap which I believe improves on US-International. I've found it quite handy. I'm releasing it to the public in hopes that other people will find it useful too.


This assumes a Windows XP system. Steps 1-3 are probably the same one all Windows systems, but I'm not sure how the Control Panel is arranged on pre-XP versions.
  1. Download from this link
  2. Open the zip file (with WinZip, or whatever you've got)
  3. Double-click on USInt2.exe and hit "OK" (this installs the DLL so Windows can see it)
  4. Open the Control Panel, and go to Date, Time, Language, & Regional Options. There, open the Regional and Language Options control panel.
  5. Click on the Languages tab and then the Details button under "Text services and input languages"
  6. In "Installed services", under English, click on Keyboard and then click "Add"
  7. Make sure "Input language" says "English (United States)". Check the box for "Keyboard layout/IME", select "US Latin-1" from the pull-down menu, and click OK.

If you use it like the standard "US" (ASCII)  keymap, it will behave exactly how you expect. The additional characters are all accessed with AltGr (the right alt key, or control+alt).

The characters you get with AltGr:
keyboard layout with AltGr pressed

The characters you get with AltGr + Shift:
keyboard layout with AltGr and Shift pressed

Most of these are pretty easy to remember. ð and Ð are AltGr + d and D, þ and Þ are AltGr + t and T (because it means "th"), × (multiplication sign) is AltGr + * because the asterisk is frequently used to mean multiplication, µ (micro sign) is AltGr + m, etc.

Two things aren't really clear on these pictures. AltGr + hyphen produces the "soft hyphen": an invisible character that marks a point where a word may be broken and a hyphen added when laying out text. AltGr + space is the "non-breaking space", a space character where the line is not allowed to split.

The greyed-out characters are "dead keys". To get an accented character, you press one of these and then the character you want to accent. So to get Á, you press AltGr + ' (apostrophe), then A. Here's how they work:

AltGr + ` (backtick): grave accent
AltGr + ' (apostrophe): acute accent
AltGr + 6: circumflex (looks like the caret you get from shift+6)
AltGr + ; (semicolon): umlaut or diæresis (two dots, like a colon)
AltGr + n: tilde (commonly used with n as ñ, shows nasalization of vowels in Portuguese)
AltGr + , (comma): cedilla (looks like a cedilla), plus additional diacritics and fractions
AltGr + 0 (zero): miscellaneous

To get a spacing (non-diacritic) equivalent to any of them, type the dead key and then a space. For AltGr + comma, that produces a cedilla. For AltGr + 0, that produces a degree sign.

Grave, acute, circumflex, umlaut, and tilde behave exactly as you would expect (although they're limited to the characters in the Latin-1 character set: that means no capital ÿ, and tilde only applies to n, a, and o). AltGr+comma and AltGr+0 are a little funkier. AltGr + comma adds a cedilla to c and C (ç Ç), a ring above to a and A (å Å), a slash to o and O (ø Ø), and turns 2, 3, and 4 into ½, ¾, and ¼ respectively. AltGr + 0 turns o and a into the masculine and feminine ordinals (ª º), turns c and r into © and ®, and produces a degree sign if used with a space.

One problem with this keymap, which I can't figure out how to fix: it interferes with control+shift. I don't know why, because I didn't mess with control+key codes at all, but there you go. It's the only reason I haven't completely dumped the US-ASCII keymap.

EDIT: The file is now kindly hosted by John Cowan.
Tags: keyboards, keymaps
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