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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Keyboards | Keyboard Layouts | Alphanumeric Key Layouts ]

International Alphanumeric Layouts

Being an English speaker living in the United States, I tend to orient much of the writing of this site around English-language and American concerns. This is unavoidable to some extent. However, I also recognize that not everyone in the world speaks English, and therefore not everyone wants to use an English keyboard.

If you are using a language other than English on a Windows machine, you will need an alternative layout to the standard English one that is installed by default. Many languages, especially European ones, use the same Roman alphabet that English does, but add extra characters such as accented vowels. These special characters are already part of the standard ASCII character set and can be accessed even without a special keyboard or keyboard layout (see here for more on this). You can also use the "insert symbol" function on most word processors to access them. If an English speaker wants to type, for example, the word "résumé", this is sufficient. But it's utterly unacceptable for writing long documents in French, German, or other languages.

As with the Dvorak layout, there are two options for getting language-specific keyboard layouts: either purchase a keyboard that is "hard-wired" to a specific language's character set, or use the internal "logical layout" features of Windows to define the appropriate language's keyboard layout. In most cases the latter is the preferable option, especially if you are trying to use a particular language outside the country where it is normally spoken. See this section for more information on Windows layouts and how to use multiple languages.

For languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew or Russian, which do not use the Roman alphabet, support is not built in to regular versions of Windows. You will need software support and/or special fonts for the alphabets used by these and other non-Roman languages. Fortunately, this software is not hard to find online, using just about any Web search engine.

Next: Standard Keyboard Layouts

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