Gaelic Keyboards for MS Windows

Ciarán Ó Duibhín

For Gaelic keyboards for Macintosh, see here or here or here.

All the acute- and grave-accented vowels required for Irish and Scottish Gaelic have been present in the MS Windows character-set for many years — the only problem is how to key them in a convenient fashion.  This involves the simple process of choosing and installing an appropriate Windows keyboard layout.  If you require dotted consonants in Irish Gaelic, you will further have to use a font which contains them — either a Unicode font in which these glyphs have been created, or (on older Windows systems) a font compatible with ISO Latin-8.

A number of free layouts exist for keyboarding Gaelic.  They are summarised in the following table, and individually described afterwards.  Some of these layouts come from MS, some from myself, some from other third parties.  Some of the layouts are created primarily to support Gaelic, while others are primarily general-purpose; in either case, secondary aims may not be optimally realised.  The layouts presented here are Windows-wide, that is, they affect all Windows applications; we won't bother with keyboarding methods which work only for particular applications, such as macros for MS Word.

Limited keyboarding methods, such as the AltGr/vowel method for the MS British layout, or the Alt and numeric keypad method are still often recommended to beginning users.  Such methods are included below, not as a recommendation, but so that the reader can compare them with better methods.

Before looking at the table, there are two questions to answer about your computing system.
• The first question is whether your Windows is one which uses single-byte characters (Windows 95, 98, ME), or one which uses double-byte characters (Windows 2000, XP, Vista).
• The second question is whether your keyboard hardware follows the US or UK engraving (or another). The US hardware keyboard has the double quotation mark engraved as shift + single quotation mark, and the at-sign engraved as shift + 2; in the UK hardware keyboard (used also in Ireland), these are reversed. There are other differences, but this will suffice to determine which hardware keyboard you have.

Now, see which layout in the table fits your circumstances best. Where more than one layout fits, I have tried to arrange them with the most convenient first. (Note also that the "Alt and numeric keypad" method works in all circumstances, but is the least convenient.)  For many people it will be unnecessary to look beyond the top row of the table.

Characters facilitated UK/Irish hardware keyboard US hardware keyboard
Windows 95, 98, ME Windows 2000, XP,Vista Windows 95, 98, ME Windows 2000, XP,Vista

ALL THOSE BELOW


My KBDIR


UK Ireland Extended
Whacking Latin


 


US Ireland Extended
Moby Latin

Irish Gaelic without dots MS Irish
MS British or UK
John's UK International
KeyMng32
Cló Gaelach
MS Gaelic
MS UK extended (XP sp2)
John's UK International
Paulo's UK International
James' UK International
Jean's UK-International
Leandro's UK adaptado
MS Irish
MS British or UK
MS US-international
KeyMng32
United States–Gaeilge
MS US-international
Scottish Gaelic MS Irish
John's UK International
KeyMng32
Cló Gaelach
MS Gaelic
MS UK extended (XP sp2)
John's UK International
Paulo's UK International
James' UK International
Jean's UK-International
Leandro's UK adaptado
MS Irish
MS US-international
KeyMng32
United States–Gaeilge
MS US-international
Irish Gaelic with dots KeyMng32 Cló Gaelach KeyMng32 United States–Gaeilge
extra typographical KeyMng32 James' UK International KeyMng32  
Manx Gaelic John's UK International MS UK extended (XP sp2)
John's UK International
Paulo's UK International
James' UK International
Jean's UK-International
Leandro's UK adaptado
MS US-international MS US-international
Welsh   MS UK extended (XP sp2)
John's UK International
Paulo's UK International
James' UK International
   
Esperanto   James' UK International    
general foreign words John's UK International MS UK extended (XP sp2)
John's UK International
Paulo's UK International
James' UK International
Jean's UK-International
Leandro's UK adaptado
Cló Gaelach (fr,de,es)
MS US-international MS US-international

Irish Gaelic without dots: a,e,i,o,u with acute accent
Scottish Gaelic: a,e,i,o,u with grave accent, a,e,o with acute accent
Irish Gaelic with dots: a,e,i,o,u with acute accent, b,c,d,f,g,m,p,s,t with dot-above (all such layouts also allow keying of long-r, long-s, long-s-dot and Tironian-et when provided in a font as separate characters, though this method of displaying these symbols is deprecated for reasons explained at the end of this page)
Manx Gaelic: c-cedilla
Welsh: a,e,i,o,u,w,y with grave, acute, circumflex, diaeresis
Esperanto: c,g,h,j,s with circumflex, u with saucer-above
extra typographical: left and right double and single quote, en-dash, em-dash, ellipsis, bullet
general foreign words: grave, acute, circumflex, diaeresis, tilde on the more usual letters


The layouts in detail




My proposals (1998) for an Irish keyboard standard.


Note on deadkeys.

A number of the above keyboards use deadkeys, that is, keys which produce no character themselves, but only in combination with the following keypress.

The character engraved on a deadkey may generally be input by pressing the key once followed by the space bar.

Pressing a deadkey followed by a character to which it does not apply (e.g. # followed by q) should result in the two-character sequence, e.g. #q, but not all keyboard software behaves in this way.

The result of pressing a deadkey twice in succession depends on the keyboard software. It may be expected to produce the character engraved on the key, either once or twice.

The result of pressing backspace after a deadkey character is variable, depending on the keyboard software.

Choice of deadkeys: there are enough "seldom-used" characters engraved on any keyboard to be requisitioned as deadkeys. It is often possible to choose deadkeys whose default characters resemble the accent ('`^~"). There are two main schools of thought about how these deadkeys should function. If they are used straightforwardly as the deadkey, this is fast for keying accents but disturbs the keying of their own engraved characters, which is problematical at least in the case of apostrophe and double-quote. An alternative is to assign the deadkeys to ALTGR with the commandeered character. This slows down the keying of accents, and, if any of the commandeered characters also requires SHIFT, it means the simultaneous depression of three keys, contrary to ISO/IEC 9995. Which type of layout you choose will depend on the frequency of accented characters in your input.

There is also a tension between coverage and ease of use. Some layouts will try to be exhaustive in their character coverage, at the risk of overloading the user's memory of the associated keystrokes. It may be best to use a layout which focuses on your particular needs, if you can find one.


Notes on fonts.

1. Non-ANSI characters.

Some of the characters supported (dotted consonants, accented w, accented y except for ýÿÝ, circumflexed consonants, saucered u) are outside the ANSI character-set (Windows codepage 1252).

Under Windows 2000/XP/Vista, when Unicode fonts are used, there should not be a problem except that some Unicode fonts may not yet support all these characters.

Under Windows 95/98/ME, the above keyings for non-ANSI characters may produce apparent rubbish with the usual fonts. However the desired characters will be displayed if the font in use is encoded in one of the following standard ways:

Under Windows 2000/XP, when a legacy font (eg. Latin-3 or Latin-8) is used rather than a Unicode font, an attempt to key a non-ANSI character is likely to produce the correct character but taken from an unexpected font (eg. Arial).  To produce the non-ANSI character from the legacy font, a different keyboard layout is required from the layout used with Unicode fonts. Such a layout giving dotted consonants with a UK hardware keyboard can be found here. For a US hardware keyboard and a legacy font, or for keying the non-ANSI characters of Welsh or Esperanto from a legacy font, I have no information (try a Google search).

2. Long characters and Tironian-et.

The four characters lowercase r, s and s-dot, and ampersand, have alternative glyphs in Gaelic scripts.  The r and s may be either "long" or "short", and the ampersand may be either a Tironian-et (like the digit "7") or — in a very few, mostly 'half-uncial', styles — an ampersand (et-ligature).  The Newman–Figgins style is found in two forms, one with short r and s, and the other with long r and s (the two forms are otherwise the same, and both use Tironian-et).

The key fact is that no piece of Irish text will employ both glyphs of any of these characters, unless caused by a change of style/font. This is why they may be treated as glyphs in Irish usage, allowing us to encode each pair as the same character, as sensible analysis dictates. The same thing applies to Irish text in Latin script: here there are no long forms, and the Tironian-et appears only in a few styles (eg. in the hybrid style sometimes found on road signs, which also features a dotless i). Again, only one glyph of each character is used in any homogeneous piece of text. Innovative font designers may choose one glyph from each pair in any combination they wish, but there is no benefit for a user in having both glyphs of a pair in one font, because there is no difference in meaning to be captured by the choice, but rather one or other of the pair will be inappropriate to the style of the font.

For any of these characters, both glyphs should be keyed in the same way, and the glyph which is displayed should be the one appropriate to the style of the font in use.  For example, pressing the ampersand key (shift/7) should produce an ampersand-like glyph in a typical Roman or half uncial font, but a Tironian-et in a typical minuscule font.  Subsequently changing this stretch of text from a typical Roman or half-uncial font to a typical minuscule font should change the ampersands to Tironian-ets; and vice versa.

There are a few Gaelic computer fonts in existence, however, which are designed in such a way that this does not happen.  With these fonts, which include some of Unicode type and many of "extended" Latin-8 type, pressing the ampersand key produces an ampersand-like glyph whatever the font, and a different keystroke is required to produce a Tironian-et glyph.  The two glyphs will not interconvert under a change of font, and the encoding distinction thus made between the two glyphs leads to further (and unnecessary) problems of text manipulation and analysis.

For those who must work with these problematic fonts, most layouts provide a means of keying the second glyphs (Tironian-et, long-r, long-s, long-s-dot), but it is suggested that you avoid them and use only the normal keystrokes for these four characters (ampersand, r, s, s-dot).  To achieve the desired appearance while using only the normal keystrokes, you should use fonts for which the normal keystrokes produce the glyph choices (between ampersand and Tironian-et; between r and long-r; between s and long-s; between s-dot and long-s-dot) best suited to the style of the font.  Such fonts include all standard (as opposed to "extended") Latin-8 fonts, and also many Unicode fonts.

See here for further discussion.


Ciarán Ó Duibhín
2013/05/30
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