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UI::KeyboardLayout::izKeys - example keyboard layout generated with UI::KeyboardLayout


  #!/usr/bin/perl -wC31
  use UI::KeyboardLayout; 
  use strict;
  my $l = UI::KeyboardLayout::->new_from_configfile('examples/izKey.kbdd');
  for my $F (qw(US CyrillicPhonetic Greek Hebrew)) {            
        # Open file, select() 
    print $l->fill_win_template(1,[qw(faces US)]);


Ilya Zakharevich,

Design goals

Design goals for izKeys keyboard group:


No gotchas for people who cannot remember anything.


Doing 3-4 experiments, one must be able to find most (80-90% achievable?) of covered characters knowing only a handful of general rules for "position allocation" [*].

  [*] Currently it is unclear if the general rules may be shared by all the "application domains".
      For example, to access our layout this way, one needs to know different "handfuls" of allocation rules
      for Ancient Greek than for Math Symbols.

Gradual degradation: the fewer rules one can keep in mind, the narrower repertoir of characters is *easily* accessible; but "more cumbersome" ways to access characters should be available if they are easier to keep in mind. So people who can remember have access to easier typing experience, but the covered repertoir should not change much.


Have most (70%-80% achievable?) of covered characters available in easy-to-remember positions.


Have whole coverage of certain ranges of Unicode.

[What follows describes a pretty old version of layouts; see the current one] Currently achieved (ranges as of Unicode v6.1):

  • One gotcha (with Shift-SPACE) comparing to US and Russian Phonetic keyboards;

  • Full coverage of Latin-based scripts (according to Wikipedia), Latin-n repertoirs of ISO 8859, and MES-1 (except for arrows);

  • Full coverage of Greek Unicode ranges and Greekish stuff of MES-3B (polytonic and esoteric characters need double prefix keys);

  • 97% coverage of Cyrillic ranges (except for: lc/uc pairs for ԕԡԣꙣꙥꚁ; from the Latin personality: titlo-chars, 10ⁿ-combiners and most esoteric chars need double prefix keys);

  • Full coverage of currency symbols;

  • Full coverage of vulgar fractions;

  • Full coverage of Coptic alphabet (via double prefix keys);

  • Full coverage of characters covered by EurKey/Bépo keyboards (except arrows and combining 0302, 030a);

  • 50% coverage of math symbols in BMP (the most useful implemented first);

  • Full coverage of double-accented letters of MES-3b;

  • Full coverage of non-modifiers/combiners of IPA and UPA;

  • Full coverage of obsolete-IPA and case-extended IPA;

  • Latin and Cyrillic personalities;

  • Visual bell to report unrecognized/unsupported combinations;

  • Documentation of the allocation rules scattered over different files/sections.

Not yet implemented, or lost by upgrades to other goals:

  • Clear documentation of the allocation rules (needed for "goal 1" above).

  • Greek personality;

  • The "compose" prefix key + access by human-guessable sequence of Latin chars;

  • Full coverage of Cyrillic;

  • Full coverage of IPA (both visually, and by structure properties of the described sounds) and UPA;

  • Full coverage of spacing modifiers and combining characters for Latin scripts, and for symbols (had it before Blue keys were implemented);

  • Full coverage of Unicode's paleo-Latin characters;

  • Full (is it compatible with other goals???) coverage of math symbol ranges in BMP;

  • Full coverage of Math Fractur, uc Math Double-Strike and Math Script English letters (would need to abandon kbdutool...);

  • reasonable coverage of arrows;

  • reasonable coverage of ASCII/Unicode drawing characters;

  • Full coverage of non-Eastern characters covered by Neo keyboard, and X11+Neo composition tables;

  • Full coverage of MES-2 (currently 7 arrows + ⌠⌡ + 48 box drawing symbols missing);

  • Easy-to-describe quick access to Vietnamese characters (seems to be present - needs documentation).

Possible roadmaps:

  • Full coverage of Hebrew (and a personality?)

  • What about other scripts with "small repertoir" of characters (such as arabic with 62 access points on the M$ keyboard; indic)?

Personalities of keyboard

General architecture

Currently, there are four personalities: one for continuous typing in Latin scripts, and one for Cyrillic scripts. All access practically the same character repertoirs, but to access an individual "out-of-personality" letter one must use a prefix key Shift-SPACE. To type several such keys in a row, it is more convenient to switch to the other personality — such switch is performed using OS/Windowing-system specific ways (via hotkeys, or via mouse clicks on the "Language bars").

Currently, the result of a key press is governed by two modifiers: Shift and AltGr; so a key may generate 4 characters. On letter keys, Shift changes a case; so there are 2 case pairs assigned to a key (the "base" character, and "alternative" one); on symbols, there is usually no relationship between Shifted and unShifted symbols (compare / and ? on the US keyboard); to compensate for this, a lot of effort goes to make AltGr-ing a key to have more logical connections.

Every personality has a few personality-specific prefix keys (to access accented and other "more exotic" characters of Latin/Cyrillic scripts). Additionally, there are prefix keys to access "common pools" of extra characters (so-called Green Keys, Greek, Business symbols etc). To finish, there is a common "AltGr-access" prefix key which emulates pressing the AltGr-modifier with the key (especially useful when an application or a system steals some particular AltGr-letter combinations to become hotkeys). (Currently, this prefix key is AltGr-Shift-SPACE.)

The Base Layer of Latin Personality

This base layer is identical to US keyboard. In particular, there is no prefix keys on the base layer (except Shift-SPACE!); all other prefix keys require pressing AltGr-modifier. So there is no gotchas with this leyout if one does not use AltGr-modifier or Shift-SPACE.

NOTE: Many people do not realize this, but there is one scenario where people actually press Shift-SPACE: it happens when typing CAPITALIZED PHRASES by keeping Shift pressed all the time. When Shift-SPACE is a prefix key, when pressed between ZED and PHR in CAPITALIZED PHRASES, it would consume the following keypress for P. In particular, the SPACE will not entered, and instead of P the Cyrillic counterpart П will appear. Since the result CAPITALIZEDПHRASES differs so much from the original, such situations are easy to recognize and compensate for.

AltGr-access to Latin-1 characters

The most widely used Latin characters outside the ISO basic Latin alphabet (which is the PC name for "English Alphabet") are made accessible via AltGr-modifier. The leading principle of assigning positions to these letters is not the considerationa of mechanics of finger movement, but a simplicity of memorization of position of these keys on keyboard.

These characters are the vowels AEYUIO with "simplest" accents diaeresis=umlaut=trema, acute and grave (except for extremely rare Ë and Ỳ), "the additional" Latin-1 letters ÆÅÇÐIJÑŒØßÞ and symbols ªº¡¿№ which cannot be entered using most obvious prefix keys - and we throw in the most useful of other letters, êÊ.

Two rules govern the allocation of the letters to alphabetic keys (modified by AltGr):

  1. The "additional" letters ÆÅÇÐIJÑŒØßÞ are assigned to the "closest" base Latin letters (ACDINOST). (When conflicts arise - Æ vs Å, Œ vs Ø - the digraph wins.)

  2. The characters with simplest accents ¨´` are assigned in the "diagonal of the base vowel" in ¨=top, ´=middle, `=bottom rows of the 3 alphabetic rows of the keyboard.

For example, the wishful-thinking positions for characters ÄÁÀ is on keys QAZ (left-hand vowels' diagonals are sloping to the left) and the wishful thinking positions for characters ÖÓÒ are on keys OKM (right-hand vowels' diagonals are sloping to the right). When conflicts arise, the rule 1 wins, and the losing ¨´`-accented vowel is pushed away 1 step from the diagonal (down if possible, otherwise down). For example, by rules above, both Æ and Á want to be on the A key; so Á is pushed away; there is no key "away from QAZ-diagonal down", so it goes "away from QAZ-diagonal up" to W key. Likewise, Œ pushes away Ö is from O down to L.

This does not say what to do with ÅØÏÌ, and alphabetic keys RP are not used. Moreover, this does allocate ỲË which are (comparing to unallocated letters) not in widespread usage. So one adds:

EXCEPTIONS: Ê is on E, Ì is pushed away 2 steps left to the wishful-thinking position of on V, Ø is pushed 1 step to the right to P, and Å is on R.

For non-alphabetic symbols, ¡¿№ are on most natural positions !?#; ª is put on the closest non-alphabetic key @, and º is put on the same key but without Shift.

NOTE: our sloping rule for right-hand diagonals makes all diagonals go over alphabetic keys of US keyboard. This allows for AltGr-alphabetic keys generate alphabetic characters, and AltGr-symbol keys generate symbols.

AltGr-access to non-math symbols

is put at the position on the keyboard most often etched with this symbol (which is 5), and ¥ is on the same key shifted. ¢£ are put on 4$ (but AltGr-$ is a dead key for Business-related symbols, follow it by SPACE to get the £ character!).

The Base Layer of Cyrillic Personality

This base layer is identical to the standard X11's Russian Phonetic keyboard layout (which is of "яверты" flavor). Of 26 letter keys of US keyboard, 19 have an obvious phonetic mapping, 5 partially ambiguous keys are W==>В, V==>Ж and J==>Й, Y==>Й, H==>Х; and 2 (Q==>Я [heuristic: remember яверты?] and X=>Ь) must be memorized. Other 5 Russian letters are put on rarely used symbol keys in two top rows: `~ ==> Ю, =+ ==> Ч, [{ and ]} ==> Ш and Щ, and \| ==> Э (they also must be memorized).

Where are two remaining Russian alphabet characters, ъЪ and ёЁ? On the base layer, they are on Shifted digit keys 3456 (in other words, on #$%^ - which is not very intuitive. (To compensate, these letters are considered AltGr-variants of ЬЕ, so they are available on both the Base Layer, and on AltGr-layer. [Unfortunately, this leads to certain problems on Windows - so called ъЪёЁ-mirroring; more on this later.])

In particular, the most commonly used symbols are available at the same locations as on US keyboard, but the symbols `~#$%^+=[{]}\| cannot be entered from the base layer of the Cyrillic personality. (To compensate, they are all available when one types them with AltGr-modifier; and for #$%^ obscured by ъЪёЁ one does not need to use Shift-modifier.)

What follows is a collection of odd pieces of old documentation

... but most of it is relevant, though not necessarily exposed in the most convenient order...


In this section, a "keyboard" has a certain "character repertoir" (which characters may be entered using this keyboard), and a mapping associating a character in the repertoir to a keypress or to several (sequential or simultaneous) keypresses. A small enough keyboard may have a pretty arbitrary mapping and remain useful (witness QUERTY vs Dvorak vs Colemac). However, if a keyboard has a sufficiently large repertoir, there must be a strong logic ("orthogonality") in this association - otherwise the most part of the repertoir will not be useful (except for people who have an extraordinary memory - and are ready to invest part of it into the keyboard).

"Character repertoir" needs of different people vary enormously; observing the people around me, I get a very narrow point of view. But it is the best I can do; what I observe is that many of them would use 1000-2000 characters if they had a simple way to enter them; and the needs of different people do not match a lot. So to be helpful to different people, a keyboard should have at least 2000-3000 different characters in the repertoir. (Some ballpark comparisons: MES-3B has about 2800 characters; Adobe Glyph list corresponds to about 3600 Unicode characters.)

To access these characters, how much structure one needs to carry in memory? One can make a (trivial) estimate from below: on Windows, the standard US keyboard allows entering 100 - or 104 - characters (94 ASCII keys, SPACE, ENTER, TAB - moreover, C-ENTER, BACKSPACE and C-BACKSPACE also produce characters; so do C-[, C-] and C-\ C-Break in most layouts!). If one needs about 30 times more, one could do with 5 different ways to "mogrify" a character; if these mogrifications are "orthogonal", then there are 2^5 = 32 ways of combining them, and one could access 32*104 = 3328 characters.

Of course, the characters in a "reasonable repertoir" form a very amorphous mass; there is no way to introduce a structure like that which is "natural" (so there is a hope for "ordinary people" to keep it in memory). So the complexity of these mogrification is not in their number, but in their "nature". One may try to decrease this complexity by having very easy to understand mogrifications - but then there is no hope in having 5 of them - or 10, or 15, or 20.

However, we know that many people are able to memorise the layout of 70 symbols on a keyboard. So would they be able to handle, for example, 30 different "natural" mogrifications? And how large a repertoir of characters one would be able to access using these mogrifications?

This module does not answer these questions directly, but it provides tools for investigating them, and tools to construct the actually working keyboard layouts based on these ideas. It consists of the following principal components:

Unicode table examiner

distills relations between different Unicode characters from the Unicode tables, and combines the results with user-specified "manual mogrification" rules. From these automatic/manual mogrifications, it constructs orthogonal scaffolding supporting Unicode characters (we call it composition/decomposition, but it is a major generalization of the corresponding Unicode consortium's terms).

Layout constructor

allows building keyboard layouts based on the above mogrification rules, and on other visual and/or logical directives. It combines the bulk-handling ability of automatic rule-based approach with a flexibility provided by a system of manual overrides. (The rules are read from a .kbdd Keyboard Description file.

System-specific software layouts

may be created basing on the "theoretical layout" made by the layout constructor (currently only on Windows, and only via KBDUTOOL route).

Report/Debugging framework

creates human-readable descriptions of the layout, and/or debugging reports on how the layout creation logic proceeded.

The last (and, probably, the most important) component of the distribution is an example keyboard layout created using this toolset.

Keyboards: on ease of access

Let's start with trivialities: different people have different needs with respect to keyboard layouts. For a moment, ignore the question of the repertoir of characters available via keyboard; then the most crucial distinction corresponds to a certain scale. In absense of a better word, we use a provisional name "the required typing speed".

One example of people on the "quick" (or "rabid"?) pole of this scale are people who type a lot of text which is either "already prepared", or for which the "quality of prose" is not crucial. Quite often, these people may type in access of 100 words per minute. For them, the most important questions are of physical exhaustion from typing. The position of most frequent letters relative to the "rest" finger position, whether frequently typed together letters are on different hands (or at least not on the same/adjacent fingers), the distance fingers must travel when typing common words, how many keypresses are needed to reach a letter/symbol which is not "on the face fo the keyboard" - their primary concerns are of this kind.

On the other, "deliberate", pole these concerns cease to be crucial. On this pole are people who type while they "create" the text, and what takes most of their focus is this "creation" process. They may "polish their prose", or the text they write may be overburdened by special symbols - anyway, what they concentrate on is not typing itself.

For them, the details of the keyboard layout are important mostly in the relation to how much they distract the writer from the other things the writer is focused on. The primary question is now not "how easy it is to type this", but "how easy it is to recall how to type this". The focus transfers from the mechanics of finger movements to the psycho/neuro/science of memory.

These questions are again multifaceted: there are symbols one encounters every minute; after you recall once how to access them, most probably you won't need to recall them again - until you have a long interval when you do not type. The situation is quite different with symbols you need once per week - most probably, each time you will need to call them again and again. If such rarely used symbols/letters are frequenct (since many of them appear), it is important to have an easy way to find how to type them; on the other hand, probably there is very little need for this way to be easily memorizable. And for symbols which you need once per day, one needs both an easy way to find how to type them, and the way to type them should better be easily memorizable.

Now add to this the fact that for different people (so: different usage scenarios) this division into "all the time/every minute/every day/every week" categories is going to be different. And one should not forget important scenario of going to vacation: when you return, you need to "reboot" your typing skills from the dormant state.

On the other hand, note that the questions discussed above are more or less orthogonal: if the logic of recollection requires ω to be related in some way to the W-key, then it does not matter where the W-key is on the keyboard - the same logic is applicable to the QWERTY base layoubt, or BÉPO one, or Colemak, or Dvorak. This module concerns itself only with the questions of "consistency" and the related question of "the ease of recall"; we care only about which symbols relate to which "base keys", and do not care about where the base key sit on the physical keyboard.

NOTE: the version 0.01 of this module supports only the standard US layout of the base keys.

Now consider the question of the character repertoir: a person may need ways to type "continuously" in several languages; in addition to this, there may be a need to occasionally type "standalone" characters or symbols outside the repertoir of these languages. Moreover, these languages may use different scripts (such as Polish/Bulgarian/Greek/Arabic/Japanese), or may share a "bulk" of their characters, and differ only in some "exceptional letters". To add insult to injury, these "exceptional letters" may be rare in the language (such as ÿ in French or à in Swedish) or may have a significant letter frequency (such as é in French) or be somewhere in between (such as ñ in Spanish).

And the non-language symbols do not need to be the math symbols (although often they are). An Engish-language discussion of etimology at coffee table may lead to a need to write down a word in polytonic greek, or old norse; next moment one would need to write a phonetic transcription in IPA/APA symbols. A discussion of keyboard layout may involve writing down symbols for non-character keys of the keyboard. A typography freak would optimize a document by fine-tuned whitespaces. Almost everybody needs arrows symbols, and many people would use box drawing characters if they had a simple access to them.

Essentially, this means that as far as it does not impacts other accessibility goals, it makes sense to have unified memorizable access to as many symbols/characters as possible. (An example of impacting other aspects: MicroSoft's (and IBM's) "US International" keyboards steal characters `~'^": typing them produces "unexpected results" - they are deadkeys. This significantly simplifies entering characters with accents, but makes it harder to enter non-accented characters.)

One of the most known principles of design of human-machine interaction is that "simple common tasks should be simple to perform, and complicated tasks should be possible to perform". I strongly disagree with this principle - IMO, it lacks a very important component: "a gradual increase in complexity". When a certain way of doing things is easy to perform, and another similar way is still "possible to perform", but on a very elevated level of complexity, this leads to a significant psychological barrier erected between these ways. Even when switching from the first way to the other one has significant benefits, this barrier leads to self-censorship. Essentially, people will ignore the benefits even if they exceed the penalty of "the elevated level of complexity" mentioned above. And IMO self-censorship is the worst type of censorship. (There is a certain similarity between this situation and that of "self-fulfilled prophesies". "People won't want to do this, so I would not make it simpler to do" - and now people do not want to do this...)

So I would add another clause to the law above: "and moderately complicated tasks should remain moderately hard to perform". What does it tell us in the situation of keyboard layout? One can separate several levels of complexity.


There should be some "base keyboards": keyboard layouts used for continuous typing in a certain language or script. Access from one base keyboard to letters of another should be as simple as possible.

By parts:

If a symbol can be thought of as a combination of certain symbols accessible on the base keyboard, one should be able to "compose" the symbol: enter it by typing a certain "composition prefix" key then the combination (as far as the combination is unambiguously associated to one symbol).

The "thoughts" above should be either obvious (as in "combining a and e should give æ") or governed by simple mneumonic rules; the rules should cover as wide a range as possible (as in "Greek/Coptic/Hebrew/Russian letters are combined as G/C/H/R and the corresponding Latin letter; the correspondence is phonetic, or, in presence of conflicts, visual").

Quick access:

As many non-basic letters as possible (of those expected to appear often) should be available via shortcuts. Same should be applicable to starting sequences of composition rules (such as "instead of typing StartCompose and ' one can type AltGr-').

Smart access

Certain non-basic characters may be accessible by shortcuts which are not based on composition rules. However, these shortcuts should be deducible by using simple mneumonic rules (such as "to get a vowel with `-accent, type AltGr-key with the physical keyboard's key sitting below the vowel key").


If everything else fails, the user should be able to enter a character by its Unicode number (preferably in the most frequently referenced format: hexadecimal).

    NOTE: This does not seem to be easily achievable, but it looks like a very nifty UI: a certain HotKey is reserved (e.g., AltGr-AppMenu); when it is tapped, and a character-key is pressed (for example, B) a menu-driven interface pops up where user may navigate to different variants of B, Beta, etc - each of variants with a hotkey to reach NOW, and with instructions how to reach it later from the keyboard without this UI.

    Also: if a certain timeout passes after pressing the initial HotKey, an instruction what to do next should appear.

Here are the finer points elaborating on these levels of complexity:

  1. It looks reasonable to allow "fuzzy mneumonic rules": the rules which specify several possible variants where to look for the shortcut (up to 3-4 variants). If/when one forgets the keying of the shortcut, but remembers such a rule, a short experiment with these positions allows one to reconstruct the lost memory.

  2. The "base keyboards" (those used for continuous typing in a certain language or script) should be identical to some "standard" widely used keyboards. These keyboards should differ from each other in position of keys used by the scripts only; the "punctuation keys" should be in the same position. If a script B has more letters than a script A, then a lot of "punctuation" on the layout A will be replaced by letters in the layout B. This missing punctuation should be made available by pressing a modifier (AltGr? compare with MicroSoft's Vietnamese keyboard's top row).

  3. If more than one base keyboard is used, there must be a quick access: if one needs to enter one letter from layout B when the active layout is A, one should not be forced to switch to B, type the letter, then switch back to A. It must be available on "Quick_Access_Key letter".

  4. One should consider what the Quick_Access_Key does when the layouts A and B are identical on a particular key. One can go with the "Occam's razor" approach and make Quick_Access_Key the do-nothing identity map. Alternatively, one can make it access some symbols useful both for script A and script B. It is a judgement call.

    Note that there is a gray area when layouts A and B are not identical, but a key K produces punctuation in layout A, and a letter in layout B. Then when in layout B, this punctuation is available on AltGr-key, so, in principle, Quick_Access_Key would duplicate the functionality of AltGr. Compare with "there is more than one way to do it" below; remember that OS (or misbehaving applications) may make some keypresses "unavailable". I feel that in these situations, having duplication is a significant advantage over "having some extra symbols available".

  5. Paired symbols (such as such as ≤≥, «», ‹›, “”, ‘’ should be put on paired keyboard's keys: <> or [] or ().

  6. "Directional symbols" (such as arrows) should be put either on numeric keypad or on a 3×3 subgrid on the letter-part of the keyboard (such as QWE/ASD/ZXC). (Compare with [broken?] implementation in Neo2.)

  7. for symbols that are naturally thought of as sitting in a table, one can create intuitive mapping of quite large tables to the keyboard. Split each key in halves by a horizontal line, think of Shift-key as sitting in the top half. Then ignoring `~ key and most of punctuation on the right hand side, keyboard becomes an 8×10 grid. Taking into account AltGr, one can map up to 8×10×2 (or, in some cases, 8×20!) table to a keyboard.

    Example: Think of IPA consonants.

  8. Cheatsheets are useful. And there are people who are ready to dedicate a piece of their memory to where on a layout is a particularly useful to them symbol. So even if there is no logical position for a certain symbol, but there is an empty slot on layout, one should not hesitate in using this slot.

    However, this will be distractive to people who do not want to dedicate their memory to "special cases". So it makes sense to have three kinds of cheatsheets for layouts: one with special cases ignored (useful for most people), one with all general cases ignored (useful for checks "is this symbol available in some place I do not know about" and for memorization), and one with all the bells and whistles.

  9. "There is more than one way to do it" is not a defect, it is an asset. If it is a reasonable expectation to find a symbol X on keypress K', and the same holds for keypress K'' and they both do not conflict with other "being intuitive" goals, go with both variants. Same for 3 variants, 4 - now you get my point.

    Example: The standard Russian phonetic layout has Ё on the ^-key; on the other hand, Ё is a variant of Е; so it makes sense to have Ё available on AltGr-Е as well. Same for Ъ and Ь.

  10. Dead keys which are "abstract" (as opposed to being related to letters engraved on physical keyboard) should better be put on modified state of "zombie" keys of the keyboard (SPACE, TAB, CAPSLOCK, MENU_ACCESS).

    NOTE: Making Shift-Space a prefix key may lead to usability issues for people used to type CAPITALIZED PHRASES by keeping Shift pressed all the time. As a minimum, the symbols accessed via Shift-SPACE key should be strikingly different from those produced by key so that such problems are noted ASAP. Example: on the first sight, producing NO-BREAK SPACE on Shift-Space Shift-Space or Shift-Space Space looks like a good idea. Do not do this: the visually undistinguishable NO-BREAK SPACE would lead to significantly hard-to-debug problems if it was unintentional.

Explanation of keyboard layout terms used in the docs

The aim of this module is to make keyboard layout design as simple as possible. It turns out that even very elaborate designs can be made quickly and the process is not very error-prone. It looks like certain venues not tried before are now made possible; at least I'm not aware of other attempts in this direction. One can make layouts which can be "explained" very concisely, while they contain thousand(s) of accessible letters.

Unfortunately, being on unchartered territories, in my explanations I'm forced to use home-grown terms. So be patient with me... The terms are keyboard group, keyboard, face and layer. (I must compare them with what ISO 9995 does:

In what follows, the words letter and character are used interchangeably. A key means a physical key on a keyboard clicked (possibly together with one of modifiers Shift, AltGr - or, rarely Control. The key AltGr is either marked as such, or is just the "right" Alt key; at least on Windows it can be replaced by Control-Alt. A prefix key is a key tapping which does not produce any letter, but modifies what the next keypress would do (sometimes it is called a dead key; in ISO 9995 terms, it is probably a latching key).

A plain layer is a part of keyboard layout accessible by using only non-prefix keys (possibly in combination with Shift); likewise, additional layers are parts of layout accessible by combining the non-prefix keys with Shift (if needed) and with a particular combination of other modifiers (AltGr or Control). So there may be up to 2 additional layers: the AltGr-layer and Control-layer.

On the simplest layouts, such as "US" or "Russian", there is no prefix keys - but this is only feasible for languages which use very few characters with diacritic marks. However, note that most layouts do not use Control-layer - it is stated that this might be subject to problems with system interaction.

The primary face consists of the plain and additional layers of a keyboard; it is the part of layout accessible without switching "sticky state" and without using prefix keys. There may be up to 3 layouts (Primary, AltGr, Control) per face (on Windows). A secondary face is a face exposed after pressing a prefix key.

A personality is a collection of faces: the primary face, plus one face per a defined prefix-key. Finally, a keyboard group is a collection of personalities (switchable by CapsLock and/or personality change hotkeys like Shift-Alt) designed to work smoothly together.

EXAMPLE: Start with a very elaborate (and not yet implemented, but feasible with this module) example. A keyboard group may consist of phonetically matched Latin and Cyrillic personalities, and visually matched Greek and Math personalities. Several prefix-keys may be shared by all 4 of these personalities; in particular, there would be 4 prefix-keys allowing access to primary faces of these 4 personalities from other personalities of the group. Also, there may be specialised prefix-key tuned for particular need of entering Latin script, Cyrillic script, Greek script, and Math.

Suppose that there are 8 specialized Latin prefix-keys (for example, name them


although in practice each one of them may do more than the name suggests). Then Latin personality will have the following 13 faces:


NOTE: Here Latin-Primary is the face one gets when one presses the Access-Latin prefix-key when in Latin mode; it may be convenient to define it to be the same as Primary - or maybe not. For example, if one defines it to be Greek-Primary, then this prefix-key has a convenient semantic of flipping between Latin and Greek modes for the next typed character: when in Latin, Latin-PREFIX-KEY a would enter α, when in Greek, the same keypresses [now meaning "Latin-PREFIX-KEY α"] would enter "a".

Assume that the layout does not use the Control modifier. Then each of these faces would consists of two layers: the plain one, and the AltGr- one. For example, pressing AltGr with a key on Greek face could add diaeresis to a vowel, or use a modified ("final" or "symbol") "glyph" for a consonant (as in σ/ς θ/ϑ). Or, on Latin face, AltGr-a may produce æ. Or, on a Cyrillic personality, AltGr-я (ya) may produce ѣ (yat').

Likewise, the Greek personality may define special prefix-keys to access polytonic greek vowels. (On the other hand, maybe this is not a very good idea - it may be more useful to make polytonic Greek accessible from all personalities in a keyboard group. Then one is able to type a polytonic Greek letter without switching to the Greek personality.)

With such a keyboard group, to type one Greek word in a Cyrillic text one would switch to the Greek personality, then back to Cyrillic; but when all one need to type now is only one Greek letter, it may be easier to use the "Greek-PREFIX-KEY letter" combination, and save switching back to the Cyrillic personality. (Of course, for this to work the letter should be on the primary face of the Greek personality.)


Looks too complicated? Try to think about it in a different way: there are many faces in a keyboard group; break them into 3 "onion rings":

CORE faces

one can "switch to a such a face" and type continuously using this face without pressing prefix keys. In other words, these faces can be made "active".

When another face is active, the letters in these faces are still accessible by pressing one particular prefix key before each of these letters. This prefix key does not depend on which core face is currently "active". (This is the same as for univerally accessible faces.)

Universally accessible faces

one cannot "switch to them", however, letters in these faces are accessible by pressing one particular prefix key before this letter. This prefix key does not depend on which core face is currently "active".

satellite faces

one cannot "switch to them", and letters in these faces are accessible from one particular core face only. One must press a prefix key before every letter in such faces.

For example, when entering a mix of Latin/Cyrillic scripts and math, it makes sense to make the base-Latin and base-Cyrillic faces into the core; it is convenient when (several) Math faces and a Greek face can be made universally accessible. On the other hand, faces containing diacritized Latin letters and diacritized Cyrillic letters should better be made satellite; this avoids a proliferation of prefix keys which would make typing slower.

Access to diacritic marks

The logic: prefix keys are either 8-bit characters with high bit set, or if none with the needed glyph, they are "spacing modifier letters" or "spacing clones of diacritics". And if you type something after them, you can get other modifier letters and combining characters: here is the logic of this:

The second press

The principal combining mark.

Surrogate for the diacritic

(either " or '): corresponding "prime shape"-modifier character


The modifier character itself.


Modifier letter (the first one if diacritic is 8-bit, the second one otherwise.

Some stats on prefix keys: ISO 9995-3 uses 26 prefix keys for diacritics; bépo uses 20, while EurKey uses 8. On the other end of spectrum, there are 10 US keyboard keys with "calculatable" relation to Latin diacritics:

  `~^-'",./? --- grave/tilde/hat/macron/acute/diaeresis/cedilla/dot/stroke/hook-above

To this list one may add a "calculatable" key $ as the currency prefix; on the other hand, one should probably remove ? since AltGr-? should better be "set in stone" to denote ¿. If one adds Greek, then the calculatable positions for aspiration are on [ ] (or on ( )). Of widely used Latin diacritics, this leaves ring/hacek/breve/horn/ogonek/comma (and doubled grave/acute).

CAVEATS for BÉPO keyboard:

Non-US keycaps: the key "a" still uses (VK_)A, but its scancode is now different. E.g., French's A is on 0x10, which is US's Q. Our table of scancodes is currently hardwired. Some pictures and tables are available on



The keyboard generated with this layout:

The generator module: UI::KeyboardLayout and reference therein: see "SEE ALSO" in UI::KeyboardLayout.

On diacritics:                 (Chars of languages)

     Accents in different Languages:,12,inne_diakrytyki.htm#07
     Typesetting Old and Modern Church Slavonic

On typography marks

On keyboard layouts:           (used almost nowhere - only half of keys in Canadian multilanguage match)
      Discussion of layout changes:                     (Old Irish mechanical typewriters)                    (One-handed layout)   (and references there)
      Images in (download of)
      Neo2 sources:
      Shift keys at center, nice graphic:
      Physical keyboard:
      Portable keyboard layout
      Typing on numeric keypad
      On screen keyboard indicator
      Phonetic Hebrew layout(s) (1st has many duplicates, 2nd overweighted)
      Greek (Galaxy) with a convenient mapping (except for Ψ) and BibleScript
      With 2-letter input of Unicode names:

By author of MSKLC Michael S. Kaplan (do not forget to follow links)
      Chaining dead keys:
      Mapping VK to VSC etc:
      [Link] Remapping CapsLock to mean Backspace in a keyboard layout
            (if repeat, every second Press counts ;-)
      Scancodes from kbd.h get in the way
      What happens if you start with .klc with other VK_ mappings:
      Keyboards with Ctrl-Shift states:
      On assigning Ctrl-values
      On hotkeys for switching layouts:
      Text services
      Low-level access in MSKLC
      On font linking
      Unicode in console
      Adding formerly "invisible" keys to the keyboard
      Redefining NumKeypad keys
      And backspace/return/etc
       kbdutool.exe, run with the /S  ==> .c files
      Doing one's own WM_DEADKEY processing'
      Dead keys do not work on SG-Caps
      Dynamic keycaps keyboard
      Backslash/yen/won confusion
      Unicode output to console
      Install/Load/Activate an input method/layout
      Suggest a topic:

VK_OEM_8 Kana modifier - Using instead of AltGr Limitations of using KANA toggle

HTML consolidated entity names and discussion, MES charsets:


Low level scancode mapping
  the free remapkey.exe utility that's in Microsoft NT / 2000 resource kit.

  perl -wlne "BEGIN{$t = {T => q(), qw( X e0 Y e1 )}} print qq(  $t->{$1}$2\t$3) if /^#define\s+([TXY])([0-9a-f]{2})\s+(?:_EQ|_NE)\((?:(?:\s*\w+\s*,){3})?\s*([^\W_]\w*)\s*(?:(?:,\s*\w+\s*){2})?\)\s*(?:\/\/.*)?$/i" kbd.h >ll2
    then select stuff up to the first e1 key (but DECIMAL is not there T53 is DELETE??? take from MSKLC help/using/advanced/scancodes)

CapsLock as on typewriter:

Problems on X11:                   (definition of XKB???)                     (current???)                       (current???)        (current???)                  (documents almost 1/2 of the needed stuff)                                        (2005++ ???)    (2009++ HAS: How to make CapsLock change layouts)                                (of 2008???)                                     (of 2005???)                           (of 1999???)


  ./xkb in /etc/X11 /usr/local/X11 /usr/share/local/X11 but what dead_diaresis means is defined here:
     Apparently, may be in /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/locale/en_US.UTF-8/Compose /usr/share/X11/locale/en_US.UTF-8/Compose

Note: have XIM input method in GTK disables Control-Shift-u way of entering HEX unicode.

Note: the problems with handling deadkeys via .Compose are that: .Compose is handled by applications, while keymaps by server (since they may be on different machines, things can easily get out of sync); .Compose knows nothing about the current "Keyboard group" or of the state of CapsLock etc (therefore emulating "group switch" via composing is impossible).

JS code to add "insert these chars": google for editpage_specialchars_cyrilic, or

Latin paleography       (Uncomplete???)        (No prioritization...)

Summary tables for Cyrillic                 - per language tables

     Extra chars (see also the ordering table on page 8)

    Table with Unicode points marked:
                        (except for "Lateral flap" and "Epiglottal" column/row.
    (Extended) IPA explained by consortium:
    IPA keyboard

Is this discussing KBDNLS_TYPE_TOGGLE on VK_KANA???

Windows: fonts substitution/fallback/replacement

Problems on Windows:

    Console font: Lucida Console 14 is viewable, but has practically no Unicode support.
                  Consolas (good at 16) has much better Unicode support (sometimes better sometimes worse than DejaVue)
                  Dejavue is good at 14 (equal to a GUI font size 9 on 15in 1300px screen; 16px unifont is native at 12 here)
    Apparently, Windows picks up the flavor (Bold/Italic/Etc) of DejaVue at random; see
        - he got it in bold.  I''m getting it in italic...  Workaround: uninstall 
          all flavors but one, THEN enable it for the console...  Then reinstall
          (preferably newer versions).

Display (how WikiPedia does it):
    In CSS:  .IPA, .Unicode { font-family: "Arial Unicode MS", "Lucida Sans Unicode"; }

Windows shortcuts:

On meaning of Unicode math codepoints

Zapf dingbats encoding, and other fine points of AdobeGL:

Quoting tchrist: You can snag unichars, uniprops, and uninames from if you like.


Currently only output for Windows keyboard layout drivers (via MSKLC) is available.

Currently only the keyboards with US-mapping of hardware keys to "the etched symbols" are supported (think of German physical keyboards where Y/Z keycaps are swapped: Z is etched between T and U, and Y is to the left of X, or French which swaps A and Q, or French or Russian physical keyboards which have more alphabetical keys than 26).

Currently no LIGATURES are supported.

While the architecture of assembling a keyboard of small easy-to-describe pieces is (IMO) elegant and very powerful, and is proven to be useful, it still looks like a collection of independent hacks. Many of these hacks look quite similar; it would be great to find a way to unify them, so reduce the repertoir of operations for assembly.

The current documentation is a hodge-podge of semi-coherent rambling.

The implementation of the module is crumbling under its weight. Its evolution was by bloating (even when some design features were simplified). Since initially I had very little clue to which level of abstraction and flexibility the keyboard description would evolve, bloating accumulated to incredible amounts.


APL symbols with UP TACK and DOWN TACK look reverted w.r.t. other UP TACK and DOWN TACK symbols. (We base our mutation on the names, not glyphs.)

LESS-THAN, FULL MOON, GREATER-THAN, EQUALS GREEK RHO, MALE are defined with SYMBOL or SIGN at end, but (may) drop it when combined with modifiers via WITH. Likewise for SUBSET OF, SUPERSET OF, CONTAINS AS MEMBER, PARALLEL TO, EQUIVALENT TO, IDENTICAL TO.

Sometimes opposite happens, and SIGN appears out of blue sky; compare:


ENG is a combination of n with HOOK, but it is not marked as such in its name.

Sometimes a name of diacritic (after WITH) acquires an ACCENT at end (see U+0476).

Oftentimes the part to the left of WITH is not resolvable: sometimes it is underspecified (e.g, just TRIANGLE), sometimes it is overspecified (e.g., in LEFT VERTICAL BAR WITH QUILL), sometime it should be understood as a word (e.g, in END WITH LEFTWARDS ARROW ABOVE). Sometimes it just does not exist (e.g., LATIN LETTER REVERSED GLOTTAL STOP WITH STROKE - there is LATIN LETTER INVERTED GLOTTAL STOP, but not the reversed variant). Sometimes it is a defined synonym (VERTICAL BAR).

Sometimes it has something appended (N-ARY UNION OPERATOR WITH DOT).

Sometimes WITH is just a clarification (RIGHTWARDS HARPOON WITH BARB DOWNWARDS).

  1     AND
  1     ANTENNA
  1     BACK
  1     BLACK SUN
  1     BRIDE
  1     COUPLE
  1     END
  1     FISH CAKE
  1     GLOBE
  1     HEAVY OVAL
  1     HELMET
  1     MONEY
  1     NIGHT
  1     ON
  1     OR
  1     PAGE
  1     SMALL VEE
  1     SOON
  1     SQUARED UP
  1     TOP
  1     WHITE SUN
  2     HEART
  2     LEFT ARROW
  2     PARALLEL
  2     TIMES
  3     CHART
  3     CONTAINS
  3     TRIANGLE
  4     BANKNOTE
  4     DIAMOND
  4     PERSON
  11    CIRCLE
  11    FACE
  15    SQUARE

  perl -wlane "next unless /^Unresolved: <(.*?)>/; $s{$1}++; END{print qq($s{$_}\t$_) for keys %s}" oxx-us2 | sort -n > oxx-us2-sorted-kw

SQUARE WITH specify fill - not combining. FACE is not combining, same for HARPOONs.

Only CIRCLE WITH HORIZONTAL BAR is combining. Triangle is combining only with underbar and dot above.


Another way of compositing is OVER (but not UNDER!) and FROM BAR. See also ABOVE, BELOW - but only BELOW LONG DASH. Avoid WITH/AND after these.


HEART means WHITE HEART SUIT. TRIPLE HORIZONTAL BAR looks genuinely missing...

SEMIDIRECT PRODUCT means one of two, left or right???

This better be convertible by rounding/sharpening, but see BUT NOT/WITH NOT/OR NOT/AND SINGLE LINE NOT/ABOVE SINGLE LINE NOT/ABOVE NOT

  2268    LESS-THAN BUT NOT EQUAL TO;             1.1
  2269    GREATER-THAN BUT NOT EQUAL TO;          1.1
  228A    SUBSET OF WITH NOT EQUAL TO;            1.1
  228B    SUPERSET OF WITH NOT EQUAL TO;          1.1
  @               Relations
  22E4    SQUARE IMAGE OF OR NOT EQUAL TO;                1.1
  22E5    SQUARE ORIGINAL OF OR NOT EQUAL TO;             1.1
  @@      2A00    Supplemental Mathematical Operators     2AFF
  @               Relational operators
          x (less-than but not equal to - 2268)
          x (greater-than but not equal to - 2269)
  2AB5    PRECEDES ABOVE NOT EQUAL TO;            3.2
  2AB6    SUCCEEDS ABOVE NOT EQUAL TO;            3.2
  @               Subset and superset relations
  2ACB    SUBSET OF ABOVE NOT EQUAL TO;           3.2

Looking into v6.1 reference PDFs, 2268,2269,2ab5,2ab6,2acb,2acc have two horizontal bars, 228A,228B,22e4,22e5,2a87,2a88,2ab1,2ab2 have one horizontal bar, Hence BUT NOT EQUAL TO and ABOVE NOT EQUAL TO are equivalent; so are WITH NOT EQUAL TO, OR NOT EQUAL TO, AND SINGLE-LINE NOT EQUAL TO and ABOVE SINGLE-LINE NOT EQUAL TO. (Square variants come only with one horizontal line?)

Set $ENV{UI_KEYBOARDLAYOUT_UNRESOLVED} to enable warnings. Then do

  perl -wlane "next unless /^Unresolved: <(.*?)>/; $s{$1}++; END{print qq($s{$_}\t$_) for keys %s}" oxx | sort -n > oxx-sorted-kw


Copyright (c) 2011-2012 Ilya Zakharevich <>

This library is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself, either Perl version 5.8.0 or, at your option, any later version of Perl 5 you may have available.

The distributed examples may have their own copyrights.



Multiple linked faces (accessible as described in ChangeLog); designated Primary- and Secondary- switch keys (as Shift-Space and AltGr-Space now).

Soft hyphen as a deadkey may be not a good idea: following it by a special key (such as Shift-Tab, or Control-Enter) may insert the deadkey character??? Hence the character should be highly visible... (Now the key is invisible, so this is irrelevant...)

Currently linked layers must have exactly the same number of keys in VK-tables.

VK tables for TAB, BACK were BS. Same (remains) for the rest of unusual keys... (See TAB-was.) But UTOOL cannot handle them anyway...

Define an extra element in VK keys: linkable. Should be sorted first in the kbd map, and there should be the same number in linked lists. Non-linkable keys should not be linked together by deadkey access...

Interaction of FromToFlipShift with SelectRX not intuitive. This works: Diacritic[<sub>](SelectRX[[0-9]](FlipShift(Latin)))

DefinedTo cannot be put on Cyrillic 3a9 (yo to superscript disappears - due to duplication???).

... so we do it differently now, but: LinkLayer was not aggressively resolving all the occurences of a character on a layer before we started to combine it with Diacritic_if_undef... - and Cyrillic 3a9 is not helped...

via_parent() is broken - cannot replace for Diacritic_if_undef.

Currently, we map ephigraphic letters to capital letters - is it intuitive???

dotted circle ◌ 25CC

DeadKey_Map200A= FlipLayers #DeadKey_Map200A_0= Id(Russian-AltGr) #DeadKey_Map200A_1= Id(Russian) performs differently from the commented variant: it adds links to auto-filled keys...

Why ¨ on THIN SPACE inserts OGONEK after making ¨ multifaceted???

When splitting a name on OVER/BELOW/ABOVE, we need both sides as modifiers???

Ỳ currently unreachable (appears only in Latin-8 Celtic, is not on Wikipedia)

Somebody is putting an extra element at the end of arrays for layers??? - Probably SPACE...

Need to treat upside-down as a pseudo-decomposition.

We decompose reversed-smallcaps in one step - probably better add yet another two-steps variant...

When creating a <pseudo-stuff> treat SYMBOL/SIGN/FINAL FORM/ISOLATED FORM/INITIAL FORM/MEDIAL FORM; note that SIGN may be stripped: LESS-THAN SIGN becomes LESS-THAN WITH DOT

We do not do canonical-merging of diacritics; so one needs to specify VARIA in addition to GRAVE ACCENT.

We use a smartish algorithm to assign multiple diacritics to the same deadkey. A REALLY smart algorithm would use information about when a particular precombined form was introduced in Unicode...

Inspector tool for NamesList.txt:


AltGrMap should be made CapsLock aware (impossible: smart capslock works only on the first layer, so the dead char must be on the first layer). [May work for Shift-Space - but it has a bag of problems...]

Alas, CapsLock'ing a composition cannot be made stepwise. Hence one must calculate it directly. (Oups, Windows CapsLock is not configurable on AltGr-layer. One may need to convert it to VK_KANA???)

WarnConflicts[exceptions] and NoConflicts translation map parsing rules.

Need a way to map to a different face, not a different layer.

Vietnamese: to put second accent over ă, ơ (o/horn), put them over ae/oe; - including another ˘ which would "cancel the implied one", so will get o-horn itself. - Except for acute accent which should replaced by ¨, and hook must be replaced by ˆ. (Over ae/oe there is only macron and diaeresis over ae.)

Or: for the purpose of taking a second accent, AltGr-A behaves as Ă (or Â?), AltGr-O behaves as Ô (or O-horn Ơ?). Then Å and O/ behave as the other one... And ˚ puts the dot *below*, macron puts a hook. Exception: ¨ acts as ´ on the unaltered AE.

  While Å takes acute accent, one can always input it via putting ˚ on Á.

If Ê is on the keyboard (and macron puts a hook), then the only problem is how to enter a hook alone (double circumflex is not precombined), dot below (???), and accents on u-horn ư.

Mogrification rules for double accents: AE Å OE O/ Ù mogrify into hatted/horned versions; macron mogrifies into a hook; second hat modifies a hat into a horn. The only problem: one won't be able to enter double grave on U - use the OTHER combination of ¨ and `... And how to enter dot below on non-accented aue? Put ¨ on umlaut? What about Ë?

When linking two layers, consider prefer_first as a suggestion only: if the prefered slot results in no link, try the second one.

Translation map "functions" for flipping AltGr-register (cannot one use FromTo[] between explicit layers???).

To allow . or , on VK_DECIMAL: maybe make CapsLock-dependent?

How to write this diacritic recipe: insert hacheck on AltGr-variant, but only if the breve on the base layer variant does not insert hacheck (so inserts breve)???

Sorting diacritics by usefulness: we want to apply one of accents from the given list to a given key (with l layers of 2 shift states). For each accent, we have 2l possible variants for composition; assign to 2 variants differing by Shift the minimum penalty of the two. For each layer we get several possible combinations of different priority; and for each layer, we have a certain number of slots open. We can redistribute combinations from the primary layer to secondary one, but not between secondary layers.

Work with slots one-by-one (so that the assignent is "monotinic" when the number of slots increases). Let m be the number of layers where slots are present. Take highest priority combinations; if the number of "extra" combinations in the primary layer is at least m, distribute the first m of them to secondary layers. If n<m of them are present, fill k layers which have no their own combinations first, then other n-k layers. More precisely, if n<=k, use the first n of "free" layers; if n>k, fill all free layers, then the last n-k of non-free layers.

Repeat as needed (on each step, at most one slot in each layer appears).

But we do not need to separate case-differing keys! How to fix?

All done, but this works only on the current face! To fix, need to pass to the translator all the face-characters present on the given key simultaneously.

===== Accent-key TAB accesses extra bindinges (including NUM->numbered one) (may be problematic with some applications??? -- so duplicate it on + and @ if they is not occupied -- there is nothing related to AT in Unicode)

Diacritics_0218_0b56_0c34= May create such a thing... (0b56_0c34 invisible to the user).

  Hmm - how to combine penaltized keys with reversion?  It looks like
  the higher priority bindings would occupy the hottest slots in both
  direct and reverse bindings...

  Maybe additional forms Diacrtitics2S_* and Diacrtitics2E_* which fight
  for symbols of the same penalty from start and from end (with S winning
  on stuff exactly in the middle...).  (The E-form would also strip the last |-group.)

' Shift-Space (from US face) should access the second level of Russian face. To avoid infinite cycles, face-switch keys to non-private faces should be marked in each face...

"Acute makes sharper" is applicable to () too to get <>-parens...


When recognizing symbols for GREEK, treat LUNATE (as NOP). Try adding HEBREW LETTER at start as well...

Compare with: 8 basic accents: (English 78)

When a diacritic on a base letter expands to several variants, use them all (with penalty according to the flags).

Problem: acute on acute makes double acute modifier...

Penalized letter are temporarily completely ignored; need to attach them in the end... - but not 02dd which should be completely ignore...

Report characters available on diacritic chains, but not accessible via such chains. Likewise for characters not accessible at all. Mark certain chains as "Hacks" so that they are not counted in these lists.

Long s and "preceded by" are not handled since the table has its own (useless) compatibility decompositions.

╒╤╕ ╞╪╡ ╘╧╛ ╓╥╖ ╟╫╢ ╙╨╜ ╔╦╗ ╠╬╣ ╚╩╝ ┌┬┐ ├┼┤ └┴┘ ┎┰┒ ┠╂┨ ┖┸┚ ┍┯┑ ┝┿┥ ┕┷┙ ┏┳┓ ┣╋┫ ┗┻┛ On top of a light-lines grid (3×2, 2×3, 2×2; H, V, V+H): ┲┱ ╊╉ ┺┹ ┢╈┪ ┡╇┩ ╆╅ ╄╇ ╼━╾╺╸╶─╴╌┄┈ ╍┅┉ ╻ ┃ ╹ ╷ │ ╵

╽ ╿ ╎┆┊╏┇┋

╲ ╱ ╳ ╭╮ ╰╯ ◤▲◥ ◀■▶ ◣▼◢ ◜△◝ ◁□▷ ◟▽◞ ◕◓◔ ◐○◑ ◒ ▗▄▖ ▐█▌ ▝▀▘ ▛▀▜ ▌ ▐ ▙▄▟



First of all, keyboard layouts on Windows are controlled by DLLs; the only function of these DLLs is to export a table of "actions" to perform. This table is passed to the kernel, and that's it - whatever is not supported by the format of this table cannot be implemented by native layouts. (The DLL performs no "actions" when actual keyboard events arrive.)

Essentially, the logic is like that: there are primary "keypresses", and chained "keypresses" ("prefix keys" [= deadkeys] and keys pressed after them). Primary keypresses are distinguished by which physical key on keyboard is pressed, and which of "modifier keys" are also pressed at this moment (as well as the state of "latched keys" - usually CapsLock only). This combination determines which Unicode character is generated by the keypress, and whether this character starts a "chained sequence".

On the other hand, the behaviour of chained keys is governed ONLY by Unicode characters they generate: if there are several physical keypresses generating the same Unicode characters, these keypresses are completely interchangeable inside a chained sequence. (The only restriction is that the first keypress should be marked as "prefix key"; for example, there may be two keys producing - so that one is producing a "real dash sign", and another is producing a "prefix" -.)

The table allows: to map ScanCodes to VK_keys; to associate a VK_key to several (numbered) choices of characters to output, and mark some of these choices as prefixes (deadkeys). (These "base" choices may contain up to 4 16-bit characters (with 32-bit characters mapped to 2 16-bit surrogates); but only those with 1 16-bit character may be marked as deadkeys.) For each prefix character (not a prefix key!) one can associate a table mapping input 16-bit "base characters" to output 16-bit characters, and mark some of the output choices as prefix characters.

The numbered choices above are determined by the state of "modifier keys" (such as Shift, Alt, Control), but not directly. First of all, VK_keys may be associated to a certain combination of 6 "modifier bits" (called "logical" Shift, Alt, Control, Kana, User1 and User2, but the logical bits are not required to coincide with names of modifier keys). (Example: bind Right Control to activate Shift and Kana bits.) The 64 possible combinations of modifier bits are mapped to the numbered choices above.

Additionally, one can define two "separate numbered choices" in presence of CapsLock (but the only allowed modifier bit is Shift). The another way to determine what CapsLock is doing: one can mark that it flips the "logical Shift" bit (separately on no-modifiers state, Control-Alt-only state, and Kana-only state [?!] - here "only" allow for the Shift bit to be ON).

AltGr key is considered equivalent to Control-Alt combination (of those are present, or always???), and one cannot bind Alt and Alt-Shift combinations. Additionally, binding bare Control modifier on alphabetical keys (and SPACE, [, ], \) may confuse some applications.

NOTE: there is some additional stuff allowed to be done (but only in presence of Far_East_Support installed???). FE-keyboards can define some sticky state (so may define some other "latching" keys in addition to CapsLock). However, I did not find a clear documentation yet (keyboard106 in the DDK toolkit???).

There is a tool to create/compile the required DLL: kbdutool.exe of MicroSoft Keyboard Layout Creator (with a graphic frontend MSKLC.exe). The tool does not support customization of modifier bits, and has numerous bugs concerning binding keys which usually do not generate characters. The graphic frontend does not support chained prefix keys, adds another batch of bugs, and has arbitrarily limitations: refuses to work if the compiled version of keyboard is already installed; refuses to work if SPACE is redefined in useful ways.

WORKFLOW: uninstall the keyboard, comment the definition of SPACE, load in MSKLC and create an install package. Then uncomment the definition of SPACE, and compile 4 architecture versions using kbdutool, moving the DLLs into suitable directories of the install package. Install the keyboard.

For development cycle, one does not need to rebuild the install package while recompiling.

Several similar MSKLC created keyboards may confuse the system

Apparently, the system may get majorly confused when the description of the project gets changed without changing the DLL (=project) name.

(Tested only with Win7 and the name in the DESCRIPTIONS section coinciding with the name on the KBD line - both in *.klc file.)

The symptoms: I know how one can get 4 different lists of keyboards:

  1. Click on the keyboard icon in the Language Bar - usually shown on the toolbar; positioned to the right of the language code EN/RU etc (keyboard icon is not shown if only one keyboard is associated to the current language).

  2. Go to the Input Language settings (e.g., right-click on the Language bar, Settings, General.

  3. on this General page, press Add button, go to the language in question.

  4. Check the .klc files for recently installed Input Languages.

  5. In MS Keyboard Layout Creator, go to File/Load Existing Keyboard list.

It looks like the first 4 get in sync if one deletes all related keyboards, then installs the necessary subset. I do not know how to fix 5 - MSKLC continues to show the old name for this project.

Another symptom: Current language indicator (like EN) on the language bar disappears. (Reboot time?)

Possible workaround: manually remove the entry in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Control\Keyboard Layouts (the last 4 digits match the codepage in the .klc file).

Too long description (or funny characters in description?)

If the name in the DESCRIPTIONS section is too long, the name shown in the list 2 above may be empty.

(Checked only on Win7 and when the name in the DESCRIPTIONS section coincides with the name on the KBD line - both in *.klc file.)

(Fixed by shortening the name [but see "Several similar MSKLC created keyboards may confuse the system" above!], so maybe it was not the length but some particular character (+?) which was confusing the system. (I saw a report on MSKLC bug when description had apostroph character '.)

MSKLC ruins names of dead key when reading a .klc

When reading a .klc file, MS Keyboard Layout Creator may ruin the names of dead keys. Symptom: open the dialogue for a dead key mapping (click the key, check that Dead key view has checkmark, click on the ... button near the Dead key? checkbox); then the name (the first entry field) contains some junk. (Looks like a long ASCII string

   U+0030 U+0030 U+0061 U+0039


Workaround: if all one needs is to compile a .klc, one can run KBDUTOOL directly.

Workaround: correct ALL these names manually in MSKLC. If the names are the Unicode name for the dead character, just click the Default button near the entry field. Do this for ALL the dead keys in all the registers (including SPACE!). If CapsLock is not made "semantically meaningful", there are 6 views of the keyboard (PLAIN, Ctrl, Ctrl+Shift, Shift, AltGr, AltGr+Shift) - check them all for grayed out keys (=deadkeys).

Check for success: File/"Save Source File As, use a temporary name. Inspect near the end of the generated .klc file. If OK, you can go to the Project/Build menu. (Likewise, this way lets you find which deadkey's names need to be fixed.)

!!! This is time-consuming !!! Make sure that other things are OK before you do this (by Project/Validate, Project/Test).

BTW: It might be that this is cosmetic only. I do not know any bad effect - but I did not try to use any tool with visual feedback on the currently active sub-layout of keyboard.

Double bug in KBDUTOOL with dead characters above 0x0fff

This line in .klc file is treated correctly by MSKLC's builtin keyboard tester:

  39 SPACE 0 0020 00a0@ 0020 2009@ 200a@ //  ,  ,  ,  ,   // SPACE, NO-BREAK SPACE, SPACE, THIN SPACE, HAIR SPACE

However, via kbdutool it produces the following two bugs:

  static ALLOC_SECTION_LDATA MODIFIERS CharModifiers = {
    //  Modification# //  Keys Pressed
    //  ============= // =============
        0,            // 
        1,            // Shift 
        2,            // Control 
        SHFT_INVALID, // Shift + Control 
        SHFT_INVALID, // Menu 
        SHFT_INVALID, // Shift + Menu 
        3,            // Control + Menu 
        4             // Shift + Control + Menu 
    {VK_SPACE     ,0      ,' '      ,WCH_DEAD ,' '      ,WCH_LGTR ,WCH_LGTR },
    {0xff         ,0      ,WCH_NONE ,0x00a0   ,WCH_NONE ,WCH_NONE ,WCH_NONE },
  static ALLOC_SECTION_LDATA LIGATURE2 aLigature[] = {
    {VK_SPACE     ,6      ,0x2009   ,0x2009   },
    {VK_SPACE     ,7      ,0x200a   ,0x200a   },

Essentially, 2009@ 200a@ produce LIGATURES (= multiple 16-bit chars) instead of deadkeys. Moreover, these ligatures are put on non-existing "modifications" 6, 7 (the maximal modification defined is 4; so the code uses the Shift + Control + Menu flags instead of "modification number" in the ligatures table.

Default keyboard of an application

Apparently, there is no way to choose a default keyboard for a certain language. The configuration UI allows moving keyboards up and down in the list, but, apparently, this order is not related to which keyboard is selected when an application starts.

AltGr-keypresses going nowhere

Some AltGr-keypresses do not result in the corresponding letter on keyboard being inserted. It looks like they are stolen by some system-wide hotkeys. See:

If these keypresses would perform some action, one might be able to deduce how to disable the hotkeys. So the real problem comes when the keypress is silently dropped.

I found out one scenario how this might happen, and how to fix this particular situation. (Unfortunately, it is not fixed what I see, when AltGr-s [but not AltGr-S] is stolen. Installing a shortcut, one can associate a hotkey to the shortcut. Unfortunately, the UI allows (and encourages!) hotkeys of the form <Control-Alt-letter> (which are equivalent to AltGr-letter) - instead of safe combinations like Control-Alt-F4 or Alt-Shift-letter (which do not go to keyboard drivers, so cannot generate characters). If/when an application linked to by this shortcut is gone, the hotkey remains, but now it does nothing (no warning or dialogue comes).

If the shortcut is installed in one of "standard places", one can find it. Save this to K:\findhotkey.vbs (replace K: by the suitable drive letter here and below)

  on error resume next
  set WshShell = WScript.CreateObject("WScript.Shell")
  Dim A
  Dim Ag
  Set Ag=Wscript.Arguments
  If Ag.Count > 0 then
  For x = 0 to Ag.Count -1
  A = A & Ag(x)
  End If
  Set FSO = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")
  set lnk = WshShell.CreateShortcut(A)
  If lnk.hotkey <> "" then
  msgbox A & vbcrlf & lnk.hotkey
  End If

Save this to K:\findhotkey.cmd

  set findhotkey=k:\findhotkey
  for /r %%A in (*.lnk) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"
  for /r %%A in (*.pif) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"
  for /r %%A in (*.url) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"
  cd /d %UserProfile%\desktop
  for /r %%A in (*.lnk) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"
  for /r %%A in (*.pif) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"
  for /r %%A in (*.url) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"
  cd /d %AllUsersProfile%\desktop
  for /r %%A in (*.lnk) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"
  for /r %%A in (*.pif) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"
  for /r %%A in (*.url) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"
  cd /d %UserProfile%\Start Menu
  for /r %%A in (*.lnk) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"
  for /r %%A in (*.pif) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"
  for /r %%A in (*.url) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"
  cd /d %AllUsersProfile%\Start Menu
  for /r %%A in (*.lnk) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"
  for /r %%A in (*.pif) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"
  for /r %%A in (*.url) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"
  cd /d %APPDATA%
  for /r %%A in (*.lnk) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"
  for /r %%A in (*.pif) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"
  for /r %%A in (*.url) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"
  for /r %%A in (*.lnk) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"
  for /r %%A in (*.pif) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"
  for /r %%A in (*.url) do %findhotkey%.vbs "%%A"

(In most situations, only the section after the last cd /d is important; in my configuration all the "interesting" stuff is in %APPDATA%. Running this should find all shortcuts which define hot keys.

Run the cmd file. Repeat in the "All users"/"Public" directory. It should show a dialogue for every shortcut with a hotkey it finds. (But, as I said, it did not fix my problem: AltGr-s works in MSKLC test window, and nowhere else I tried...)

"There was a problem loading the file" from MSKLC

Make line endings in .klc DOSish.

AltGr-keys do not work

Make line endings in .klc DOSish (when given as input to kbdutool - it gives no error messages, and deadkeys work [?!]).

17 POD Errors

The following errors were encountered while parsing the POD:

Around line 36:

Expected text after =item, not a number

Around line 45:

Expected text after =item, not a number

Around line 52:

Expected text after =item, not a number

Around line 56:

Expected text after =item, not a number

Around line 599:

Expected '=item 2'

Around line 610:

Expected '=item 3'

Around line 617:

Expected '=item 4'

Around line 634:

Expected '=item 5'

Around line 639:

Expected '=item 6'

Around line 645:

Expected '=item 7'

Around line 656:

Expected '=item 8'

Around line 670:

Expected '=item 9'

Around line 682:

Expected '=item 10'

Around line 1756:

Expected '=item 2'

Around line 1761:

Expected '=item 3'

Around line 1766:

Expected '=item 4'

Around line 1770:

Expected '=item 5'