How do I install an alternate language keyboard?

2015-02-04 18:28

Installing an Alternate Language Keyboard 

If you have writing to do that involves another language or at least occasional accent marks and diacriticals, installing and using the US-International keyboard layout can provide you with those characters without disrupting most the keyboard layout you are already used to. 

MacOS (the Macintosh operating system) has support for accent marks built-in. Windows users will need to set up an alternate keyboard definition that provides the characters for the language they want to use. 

Windows 7

Windows users should use the “US-International keyboard.” It provides the basic characters for French, German, and Spanish. First, to install this keyboard layout, I click “Start -> Control Panel-> Regional and Language Options.” Click on the “Languages” tab and then the “Details” button. Look for the Keyboard section. Click the “Add” button and select the keyboard to add from the list. Click “Apply” and then “OK.”

To easily switch from one keyboard layout to another requires the language bar; to display it, right- click on an empty space on the Microsoft taskbar at the bottom of the screen. Drag to the Toolbars item and select “Language” bar. The language bar will then appear toward the right near the date. Click the keyboard icon on the language bar and select the keyboard layout you want.

To see which keys on the keyboard now correspond to which characters, display the On-screen Keyboard by clicking “Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> Accessibility -> On-Screen” keyboard. You’ll notice a few keys shown in dark gray; these are keys with special capabilities, including accent marks. For example, the quote key (between the colon and Enter) now creates acute accents when followed by the letter the accent is displayed with. For example, to get é, press the quote key and then the letter e. Press the “Shift” key on the keyboard to display the functions these keys have when Shift is pressed. For example, to get ö, hold “Shift” and type “ (double quote), then the letter “o.”

To get characters that don’t exist even with the US-International keyboard, use Character Map. To display this useful tool, click “Start -> Run,” type in “Charmap” and press “Enter.” Click on the character you need (like ç or ¿), click the “Select” button, then the “Copy” button. Go to your document and press “Ctrl-V” to paste the character into it.

To remove a keyboard, make sure it is NOT the default, then click on that keyboard and click the “Remove” button at the right.

An easy way to “cheat” if you have a long document in another language and you don’t want to tediously type all of the accents is to highlight the text in the alternate language and then set the language using the “Tools Menu -> Language -> Set Language.” Then do a spell check!  It will prompt you to add the missing accents.


Windows 8

  1. Press the Windows button on your keyboard
  2. Click Control Panel then click Language (No, don’t click Keyboard; that won’t help)
  3. It should show you the languages that are already installed, such as “English (United States)”
  4. Since the keyboard you want to add is technically an English one, you will be adding it to English (United States)  Click the Options link to the right of that language.
  5. The next window will show you the Display language, the Input Method, and possibly a section for handwriting.  Click the link “Add an input method.”
  6. A list of quite a few keyboard layouts will be displayed.  Scroll down just a bit to United States-International, which is just below the various Dvorak options.  Click it to highlight it, then click the Add button below.
  7. This will take you back to the previous screen, and now you should see the United States-International keyboard listed along with the US one.  Click the Save button below.
  8. Close any open control panel windows.  Your alternate keyboard is now successfully installed.

If you want to install an entirely different language keyboard, follow steps 1 through 3 above, and then:

  1. Above the list of currently installed languages, click the “Add a language” link.
  2. You will be presented with a long list of alphabets and keyboard layouts.  Some of the languages have multiple options and those are represented in a rectangle that looks like a stack of cards.  If your language has more than one option, click the language, then click the Open button below.  You will then be presented with the various sub-options.
  3. Click the language you want, and click the Add button.  You will then see that language listed on the Language screen.

To use the US-International keyboard (or whatever other language keyboard you installed,) click the keyboard icon in the systray at the lower right corner of the screen.  That will bring up an on-screen keyboard.  At the lower right corner, you will see a button that shows the language, a keyboard icon, and a down arrow.  Click that, then click the keyboard layout you want.  The on-screen keyboard will not show all of the characters that your new keyboard layout can produce, so you will need to know a bit about how to use it.  For example, to get ñ, you would type the ~ character on your keyboard (but it won’t appear) and then the n.  Once you type the n, the keyboard will know than an n is a character that can have a tilde over it, and it will display ñ in your document.  Likewise, to get à, type the ´ character and then a.  For ö, type “ then o.  After some practice, you will be able to type words with diacriticals without much special effort.


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