Customising Layouts

Home Keyboards Training Accessories Distributors Information Prices Links About Maltron

Customising Your Keyboard's Letter Layouts

All Maltron Keyboards to date have been specifically designed to appear to the host computer as a generic keyboard and can be used directly without having to load any special device drivers or change any system configurations.

For the majority of users this is an ideal situation, particularly those who "travel" with their keyboards and may be using disparate computers in business settings where the loading of special drivers or configuration changes would involve access to the IT support personnel or in many cased not be allowed at all.

However there are some situations where the user may wish to change their keyboard layouts for the standard configuration for convenience or productivity gains.

Modern operating systems allow some degree of flexibility in their "Human Interface Devices" but accomplish them in different fashions.

This page is a introductory guide to how this may be done.


Windows (2000 & XP)

There are two approaches to modifying the letters layouts under Windows.

  1. Modify/add the Registry.

  2. Install an additional Custom Language

1. Registry

This affects any keyboard that is connected to the computer, for any user.

It requires the use of the Registry editor and should only be undertaken by someone who is "skilled in the art" and can restore a previous copy if there are any problems.

Unless you know what you are doing "Don't".

Always make a registry backup before editing.

Microsoft Scan Code Mapper for Windows Information

Note: This allows remapping of existing key positions only, it is not able to reassign or add specific letters/symbols to an existing or additional key allocation. I.e. it is only possible to reshuffle what already exists on the keyboard.

2. Custom Language (the safe option).


Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator

Microsoft supplies a free program that allows the user to build a custom language definition file that can be used with Windows.

The simple point and click utility can be used to make small modifications to an existing layout (e.g. adding some AltGr characters or symbols) or a completely new layout from scratch.

Some care has to be used to ensure that the letters and symbols used are accessible with the intended user programs (may require extended Unicode support). If you need these custom options then the chances are that you will already be using software that can support them i.e. Multilingual text.

The best part is that the custom language tables are specific to a given user login and can either be used as a default or be specifically selected for a given application.

And best of all if it turns out not to work it is easily removed!

Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator web page.

The only limitation is that only the standard text and symbol keys can be repositioned. The other System, Number Pad, Function F1 to F12, etc. keys cannot be changed and extra keys cannot be added.

Example 1: UK English Qwerty / Maltron on Flat 102 Keyboard.

This is an example keyboard layout which enables the user to switch between UK English Qwerty and Maltron letter layouts by using the Caps Lock key to select the layout.

Maltron on 102 Keyboard - Caps Lock

Maltron on 102 Keyboard - Caps Lock + Shift

UK Qwerty/Maltron Keyboard KLC design file.

UK Qwerty/Maltron Keyboard DLL file and Installer.

This DLL keyboard driver is written this to enable people interested in the advantages of the Maltron letter layout to have a hands-on test using a standard UK 102 key (or condensed Laptop) keyboard.

There is a compromise in mapping the layout as the standard 102 keyboard has a single wide space bar. The left thumb E key has therefore been implemented at the centre of the bottom row (Qwerty key B) which may seem awkward. However this arrangement is the best for users who then take up using a Fully Ergonomic 3D or Executive Flat Maltron keyboard as the thumb use is already learnt.

The X key is also moved along one space compared to the normal Maltron layout.

The  number/symbol top row has not been changed but with the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator and the source files provided changes can be made here too.

Example 2: US English / Russian Cyrillic Dual Language Keyboard.

This is an example keyboard layout which enables the user to switch between US English and Russian Cyrillic text by using the Caps Lock key to select the layout (which would preferably be dual engraved on the key-tops).

This on-the-fly switching would be particularly advantageous for business users or computer programmers who need to be able to write in both languages.

Normal Shift Caps Lock Caps + Shift AltGr AltGr + Shift

US-RU Keyboard Layout Creator Pictures

English-Cyrillic Keyboard KLC design file.

English-Cyrillic Keyboard DLL file and Installer.

The above files are the source for Microsoft Keyboard Layout and the generated output ready for installing. Requires Cyrillic input method i.e. Windows Code Page 1251 to work with non Unicode applications.

Note: Although produced for our L90 keyboard this Keyboard DLL will work with any US Qwerty  or MS Russian Cyrillic Letter Layout keyboard.

Unlike the normal US keyboards the right Alt key functions as Alt Gr and enables additional letters and symbols to be typed. E.g. Additional Cyrillic letters are available.

Warning: Any custom key layouts will not be functional until the OS has booted.

These changes only take effect once Windows is loaded, if you need to access the computer beforehand (e.g. to change the computer EEROM hardware settings on bootup) the keyboard will be confusing to use if the core letter layout has been changed.

Additional Information:

http://www.microsoft.com/globaldev/handson/dev/Unicode-KbdsonWindows.pdf


Windows Keyboard Layout Manager

Shareware programs similar to Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator but with additional functionality (depending on version).

http://www.klm32.com/index.html

Screen shot example of Layout Editor

The 2000 version has greatest flexibility and includes modifications to the number pad. Try the demo version which can still be used to good effect for basic modifications even though some features are limited or disabled.

Full use requires a fee to activate, which for the 2000 version is at time of writing 50 € (Euros).

Note: Do not change the KBD*.DLL file name which the program saves into the Windows\System32 folder. This will prevent the DLL from working. The correct Keyboard Name you have assigned in the Layout Manager edit screen will show in the various Windows dialogue boxes.


Apple Mac OS X

The Apple Macintosh OS X operating system uses a different approach to their keyboard input with specific defined XML files.

Apple Technical Note TN2056: Installable Keyboard Layouts

Although more powerful than the Windows Layout Creator described above the Apple XML approach is more complex and requires some basic programming knowledge to make sense of what one needs to do (particularly when things don't work straight off).

The most important thing to check is that one does not inadvertently use one of the few XML reserved tags as a straight character in one's keyboard definition file. For these one MUST use the hexadecimal codes or equivalent character entity.

Ukelele

This is a shareware program which is similar to the Windows Layout Creator but provides much greater flexibility in defining layouts including the number pad  (useful as one can define superscripts etc. with shift or Option).

Ukelele is a Unicode keyboard layout editor for the XML-format keyboard layout files in OS X.2 (Jaguar or later) ".keylayout" files. It provides a graphical interface to the layout files with support for drag-and-drop character assignments, creation of dead keys, and assignment of multi-character strings.

Be warned, I found it a little "fussy" and regular backups with incremental file names, so that one can return to a previous known good version if things stop working, is recommend.

Note: The version I used did NOT prevent the inclusion of reserved XML tags!

Ukelele - Mac OS X Keyboard Layout Editor

When you look at the raw XML text file it is important to note that the keyboard entries on the left refer to the hardware key codes returned from the keyboard interface, not any specific letter or symbol codes (which is what is defined on the right i.e. the output to the OS).


Linux

There are several ways of mapping keyboards to the OS under Linux.

One option is KMFL

Keyboard Mapping for Linux


Notes

Using as an example the Maltron US USB Qwerty layout keyboard:

Example US PC Qwerty-Maltron L-type USB letter layout

Key-tops in the above diagram have the dominant keyboard layout shown in black, the secondary keyboard layout shown in green, and the Fn function key usage shown in blue.

In the keyboard controller separate lookup tables define the codes which are returned to the computer, depending on the controller option switch setting (see handbook for further details).

Unlike the software key layout programs that run on the computer these keyboard tables define physical switch positions and the key number codes which are returned when a key is pressed. As far as the computer is concerned it is always seeing a standard Qwerty keyboard.

The Chord keys, i.e. Shift, Alt (and AltGr), Ctrl and OS positions, are specially defined on the keyboard hardware XY scanning matrix and repositioning them may result in blocked key sequences (ghosting) which can cause incorrect key codes to be returned to the computer.

Keys in blue are Extended Function Keys used in conjunction with the Fn key for Multi-Media and additional F13 to F24 (F16 to F24 for Apple Macs). These are separately defined codes from the keyboard controller for the specific key position and will stay in the same position regardless of any changes made to the letters/symbols defined for that key in the letter layout (Windows or Mac).


Be careful when using any of these programs to make sure you understand what needs to be done. Neither PCD Maltron Ltd nor it's agents can be responsible for any problems or issues arising from or caused by the use or application of any of the programs or methods outlined on this page.


Maltron Keyboards - The Original & The Best!

Please contact us for further information on any of our keyboards or accessories.

P.C.D. Maltron Ltd 1977 - 2010

Web Design - Susan Parker