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Keyboards

In Information Systems' (IS) Cluster Rooms, all the computers have the keyboard which is standard in this country. This keyboard is convenient for typing English because all the letters (and punctuations symbols, etc.) which are used in writing English can be typed directly and because these same letters are printed on the tops of the keys. Because IS must offer a uniform service across its Cluster Rooms, we cannot allow users to change these keyboards.

However, there are some circumstances where the standard keyboard is inconvenient. The most obvious example of this is where a user needs to type in foreign languages, particularly those which do not use the "Latin" alphabet (A-Z, a-z) which English uses.

Historically, this problem has been tackled in a number of different ways. Typically, for other European languages which use a (small) number of accents or diacritics (that is, one or more marks above and below the Latin letters), and/or a few additional letters, it has been easiest to use the standard English keyboard and to get the extra letters/accents by typing a special combination of keys, usually the Ctrl key plus a letter (see French, German, Spanish etc. for these special key combinations).

For languages which do not use the Latin alphabet, conventions have grown up for using the English keyboard but ensuring that the computer understands something different from what is printed on the keys (see keyboard mapping described below). This is what happens, for example, with Arabic, Hindi and Korean. Of course, these latter techniques assume that users know which English keys to type in order to get the appropriate letter in the required foreign language. In fact, on most computers, including the ones IS uses for its WTS Service, it is possible to change the keyboard mapping.

Keyboard mapping

This means that though the actual keyboard remains the same, including of course what is printed on the keytops, you can change the meaning which the computer gives to the keys. So, for example, you could arrange that when you typed the key with "A" on it, the computer in fact received - and displayed - the letter: 

img: beta

For the user, therefore, it is important to consider which technique will be most appropriate for them.

IS recommendations

  1. If you only need to type a few non-English letters or if you are used to a convention which uses the English keyboard to type in a foreign language then it's probably not worthwhile altering the keyboard mapping. You can simply use Microsoft Word to spell-check in a different language.
  2. If you need to type in a lot of non-English letters, and you are not familiar with a convention for using an English keyboard to achieve this, then it may be worth adding a new language to your WTS session.

    1. When you add a new language to your WTS account your keyboard may act differently. For example, if you have French installed and selected then your computer will act like it has a French keyboard, not a standard English keyboard. When you press a key on the keyboard the character that a French keyboard would have typed will appear on your screen. This is a major step because you can no longer use what is printed on the physical keyboard keys as a guide to what you are typing. The Microsoft Visual Keyboard program can help with this.

    2. Alternatively you can set the new language to use an English keyboard rather than its own keyboard.

Changing the keyboard mapping back to English

Click the Input Locale icon and select EN for English.

img: EN input locale