Standard-non-standard: Umlaute on a QWERTY keyboard

If you look into the most important system directory of Windows (XP, C:\WINDOWS\system32), youll find a lot of kbd*.dll files there. That are keyboard layout files. After youve selected a particular keyboard layout in the Control Panels Regional and Language Options dialog, a corresponding kbd*.dll file is loaded and can be activated in the Language bar. The purpose of kbd*.dll files is to enforce particular keys to generate particular symbols, e.g. depending on the currently selected kbd*.dll file, the key just right to the Tab key can produce q, a, й or something else. You can create a keyboard layout of your own. For this purpose, you can use the free tool Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator (MKLC). The use of this tool is intuitive, nevertheless reading Help is always recommended.

Yon can use an existing keyboard layout file for creating a new one. The keyboard layout provided at this page was created by using the standard US-QWERTY-layout and offers the same functionality until the modifier key, Right Alt, is pressed. Pressing Right Alt key changes meaning of some symbol keys as shown in the table below.

KeyAOUS[]T'NPELY
 äöüß«»§£¥
ShiftÄÖÜß      

In fact, this keyboard layout follows the same logic as the well-known US-International layout: Modifier key released → QWERTY, modifier key pressed → some special characters. Since I neednt have considered any other languages than German, I could have placed German letters in a more comprehensible way than on the US-International layout. With this idea in mind, you can create an English/French or English/Spanish layouts, or, even an English/Russian. Why? After all, there is a special Russian keyboard layout. Because in some situations (e.g., writing of philological texts), permanent switching between two different layouts is annoying. Of course, the opposite direction is also possible: The Russian or Greek layout can be used as the default one, whereas Latin letters are triggered by pressing the modifier key. Having solved the technological part of the problem, tools like MKLC or, I hope, ЮNIK provide the opportunity to deal mainly with the essential part whereby everything depends on your phantasy or needs.

The zipped file kbdusger.zip (253 K) contains files generated by MKLC. That are setup.exe as well as a set of files kbdusger_*.msi and kbdusger.dll for various Windows-versions. After launching, setup.exe automatically selects which dll-file(s) should be installed on a particular system. For uninstalling a custom keyboard layout, setup.exe is to run again, or, the standard dialog Add and Remove Programs is used. The keyboard layout provided at this page appears in the list of installed programs under the name English/German. If the user wants to update a custom keyboard layout, it is recommended that the old version is removed at first (precautionary, it shouldnt be the default layout at this time).

Any key can be modifier key

A custom keyboard layout is especially useful combined with the option to select any key to use as a modifier key. Although by creation of a new layout file it is recommended to select the Right Alt key as the modifier key, you can remap any key to Right Alt. To do so, change a particular item in the system registry. After remapping, the new key can be used as the modifier key with a custom keyboard layout.

Quadruplicating the number of keys

A custom keyboard layout can be combined with ЮNIK, which results in different sets of additional characters triggered by two different modifier keys. Lets say, a keyboard has got 45 symbol keys, then:

  • no one modifier key is pressed – 45 symbols
  • the ЮNIKs modifier key is pressed – further 45 symbols
  • the Right Alt (or its substitute) is pressed – further 45 symbols
  • the Right Alt and the ЮNIKs modifier key are pressed – further 45 symbols

As a result, you can use 180 different symbols. This number can be doubled by pressing the Shift key. In sum, 45 hardware keys produce 360 different symbols all triggered by shortcuts.

 

Copyright A. Rumyantsev, 2013 MailBox