Fonts and keyboard layouts

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TOF Fonts and keyboard layouts: basic ideas and information

Your computer can produce a vast array of characters and symbols (e.g. Unicode UTF-8) but the standard laptop keyboard has only 48 keys. They can do little more than cover 48×2=96 different characters. So, if you want to name non-anglo people, places and phenomena correctly you'll need to distinguish between Åström and Astrom, and between lecon (vulgar/grossier) and leçon (=lesson). You have to know how to produce letters like Å and Ç. If you write about music you'll also need to generate the shape of sharps, flats, naturals and short snippets of notated rhythm at your computer keyboard. You might also want to spell Dvořák properly, or explain the Greek origins of ‘polyphony’ (πολύ and φωνή) or quote something in Russian or Chinese.

There are three main ways of using your computer keyboard to produce non-anglo symbols and characters:

  1. by changing keyboard layout;
  2. by changing fonts;
  3. by using standard routines that come with your computer to generate a limited number of extra characters.

PCs and Macs both have ways of generating Á É Í Ó Ú     À È Ì Ò Ù Â Ê Î Ô Û Ä Ë Ï Ö Ü Ã Ñ Õ Å Ø Ç (with lower-case, too) but neither Windows nor Mac make it easy for anyone with a Western European or North American computer to generate letters like Ă Č Ğ İ Ł Ň Ő Ř Ś Š Ț Ů Ű Ŵ Ŷ Ž Ż from the same keyboard layout, nor do they offer easy routines for writing in Russian, Bulgarian, Mongolian or Greek. Three keyboard layouts presented below address those issues.

TOF 1. Language keyboard layouts

Your keyboard can be mapped so that existing keys can produce any character with a code number in the UNICODE set (UTF-8). The AltGr key can be used to access those values (ç, š, ö, â, ñ, etc.), as can dead-key combinations (e.g.^ [circumflex] directly followed by e to produce ê). Dead keys are the safest way of producing diacritic letters and are at the base of [1] Tagg's multilingual keyboard; [2] the Greek Polytonic keyboard covering both Modern and Ancient Greek characters; [3] the Russian keyboard with keys set so that typing "Vladimir Putin" produces Владимир Путин.

2. Fonts

Many fonts provide tables interpreting codes from the keyboard in ways that do not merely provide aesthetic variants of the same letter (like this or this or this). For example, typing lower-case L (l) in the XPTmusic1 font produces a crotchet or quarter-note, while upper-case L produces a crotchet rest, $ produces (flat sign) etc. In short, fonts let you type various kinds of non-verbal symbols.


English-language computers

Several problems caused by the anglocentrism of traditional computing in today’s multicultural contexts can be addressed without having to install a supplementary keyboard layout. This section deals with those conventional solutions.

Conventional solutions

General language limitations

This section (both Windows and Mac segments) covers only roman-letter diacritics for such languages as Gaelic, French, Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Estonian and the Nordic languages. It does not include graphemes peculiar to: Czech and Slovak (č ď ě ĺ ň ř š ť ů ž), Hungarian (ő ű), Latvian (ā č ē ģ ķ ļ ņ š ū ž), Lithuanian (ą č š ų ū ž), Polish (ą ć ł ń ś ź ż), Romanian (ă ş ț), Slovenian (š ž), Turkish (ğ İ) or Welsh (ŵ ŷ). You’ll need to use other methods to spell Łódź,  Žižek, Dvóřak and Dŵr Cymru correctly and to show some respect for the language cultures concerned (about 160 million people). To cover all of those characters I recommend Tagg’s multilingual keyboard (below) for Windows. See also the Cyrillic and Greek keyboards, also below.

Windows’ own solutions   |  Go to Diacritics on a Mac

Diacritics (go to other characters)

One (partial) solution to the ethnocentricity of region-specific keyboards is Microsoft’s own US-International keyboard. It is definitely worth installing. It uses five dead keys (' ` ^ " ~) to produce the following characters.

dead key
then one of these
produces this
' apostrophe
Aa Cc Ee Ii Oo Uu Yy
Áá Çç Éé Íí Óó
Úú Ýý
` grave
Aa Ee Ii Oo Uu
Àà Èè Ìì Òò Ùù
^ circumflex
Aa Ee Ii Oo Uu
Ââ Êê Îî Ôô Ûû
" quote (straight)
Aa Ee Ii Oo Uu
Ää Ëë Ïï Öö Üü
~ tilde
Aa Nn Oo
Ãã Ññ Õõ

It can also use AltGr combinations (AltGr at the same time as another key) to produce other characters.
Those key combinations are listed in the Wikipedia Alt-Gr entry .


Mac icon Direct input of diacritic letters on an English-language Mac   

Mac language limitations

Mac language limitations are identical to those enumerated under General language limitations, above.

Basic procedures

  1. Pressing the Alt key and a standard key at the same time on an English-language Mac keyboard produces a third character when both those keys are released (Aa > Åå, Cc > Çç, Oo > Øø, see below).
  2. Pressing the Alt key with any one of the following keys at the same time ― e ` i u n ~ ― lets you enter a third standard key with the requisite diacritic. For example, pressing the Alt key together with lower-case E (e) shows an underlined acute accent on screen (´ ); pressing e again replaces the ´  with é.
Alt +
followed by
A a
 Å å  directly
C c
 Ç ç  directly
A a E e I i O o U u
Á á É é Í í Ó ó Ú ú
A a E e I i O o U u
 â Ê ê Î î Ô ô Û û
A a N n O o
à ã Ñ ñ Õ õ
O o
Ø ø  directly
A a E e I i O o U u
À à È è Ì ì Ò ò Ù ù
A a E e I i O o U u   Top
Ä ä Ë ë Ï ï Ö ö Ü ü

(continues below!)

Producing additional symbols and characters on a Mac

Method A

  1. Open any document in a text editing application (e.g. Word).
  2. Click the language flag icon in the top line (near the right) of your Mac monitor.
  3. Click Show Character Viewer and see if the character you want to produce is listed anywhere under Arrows, Parentheses, Punctuation, etc., or under ‘Favorites’. If it is, double click the character you want and it will be written to your text file.

Method B

  1. Open any document in a text editing application (e.g. Word).
  2. Click the language flag icon in the top line (near the right) of your Mac monitor.
  3. Select a keyboard layout whose characters you want to view.
  4. Click Show Keyboard Viewer to (surprise!) view that keyboard layout. Don’t forget to check its Shift and Alt modes, too.
  5. If you find the character/symbol you’re looking for, type the relevant key or key combination. That symbol/character is then written to the open document.
  6. Don’t forget to switch back to your usual keyboard layout .

TOF Method C

Let’s say you want to write ‘½’ (half) and ‘Δ’ (delta) but can’t find those characters using methods A or B.

  1. Open any document in a text editing programme
  2. Click the language flag icon in the top line (near the right) of your Mac monitor.
  3. Click Show Character Viewer.
  4. In the Search box enter half to find ‘½ ’, which appears in the middle column.
  5. Select ½ and click Add to ‘Favorites’ (right column).
  6. In the Search box enter delta to find ‘Δ’, which appears in the middle column.
  7. Select Δ and click Add to ‘Favorites’ (right column).

To retrieve characters added to ‘Favorites’ (favourites):

  1. Open any document in a text editing programme
  2. Click the language flag icon in the top line (near the right) of your Mac monitor.
  3. Click Show Character Viewer.
  4. Select ‘Favorites’ and double-click whichever character you want to appear in your text file.

TOF Keyboard layout downloads and installation

Make sure Microsoft’s Keyboard Layout Creator [MSKLC] (free) is installed on your computer.

NB. These instructions refer to the multilingual layout and to its download package Greek keyboard download file is called and the Russian one Download and installation principles are identical for all three keyboard layouts.

[1] After clicking to download whichever of the three zipped packages just mentioned, click ‘ Save file’ and then ‘OK’ (↓).


[2] Open File Manager and go to your Downloads folder.
You should see something resembling this:


It will be identical for the Greek and Russian keyboards except that the files will start GkPoly01 (Greek) and PT-Russ_ (Russian) instead of PTUS1808 (multilingual).
Run (double click) the file setup.exe ( ↑↑).


[4] If you see something like this:
select to ‘Remove the keyboard layout’ and click ‘Finish’. Otherwise just let the Setup run and click ‘Finish’. In some cases you might have to uninstall/remove existing files and start again.

TOF [5] If successful, the setup you just ran will have created an array of DLL files. You don’t have to find them on your machine, even less deal with them; it’s just that Windows needs data in that format to let you run the keyboard layout you’re installing.
The Greek keyboard layout files will be GkPoly01.dll,the Russian ones PT-Russ.dll and the multilingual ones PTUS1808.dll (as shown below).

Now you can actually make the keyboard layouts come alive.


[6] Click the Windows ‘Start’ button (under small red arrow, bottom left, below) and start typing ‘Region & language‘. That should bring up this menu (below) on the left of the screen. Select the region highlighted in blue as indicated by large red arrow.

TOF N.B. It has sometimes taken up to 5 mins for the 'Region & languages' screen to show anything at all. I don’t know why. If you have to wait that long, just be patient. Do something else and return to 'Region & languages' a bit later. Else. so much the better...

Selecting ‘Regions & language’ should produce something resembling this:

TOF The multilingual keyboard layout is associated with the Windows English (United States) language pack. If English (United States) does not appear in the ‘Languages’ display shown above, you‘ll have to add it first (press ‘+’ to Add a language).

The Greek Polytonic keyboard is associated with the Windows Ελληνικά language pack. If Greek/Ελληνικά does not appear in the Windows Languages display, you’ll need to add it first.

The Phonetic Russian keyboard is associated with the Windows Русский language pack. If Russian/Русский does not appear in the Windows Languages display, you’ll need to add it first.

Click on English (United States). That should reveal the following.

Click on Ελληνικά. That should reveal:

Click on Русский. That should reveal the following.

[8] In all three cases (7a, 7b, 7c), select ‘Options' and ensure that your new keyboard layout[s] is/are now available in Windows.

[a] US PT1808 should be under English (United States)
[b] Greek Polytonic should be under Greek/Ελληνικά
[c] Russian Phonetic 1 should be under Russian/Русский

If you don't see anything like that, restart your machine so that the Windows system can pick up on what you've just added. Then start again from [6], above.
If you do see your new keyboard layout[s] as shown under [8], go to [9].

TOF [9] Click on the language abbreviation at the right end of the taskbar, and then select the keyboard layout you want to use.


If that doesn’t work, use the Windows key + Space bar to cycle through keyboard layouts you‘ve installed.

TOF Please remember that installation procedures vary from one (version of an) operating system to another. I’m assuming readers know how to install a new font on their own devices.

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Language Character Sets

Top  FontsKbds  (radical solutions)   

1. Extended multilingual
roman-character keyboard

(2013, update 2019-04 to include μ ♭ ♯ ← → ↑ ↓ Ŭ ŭ ♮ ª º)  

TOF Description

This keyboard is useful if you need  to mention Dvořák, Fauré, El niño, Janáček, Martinů or Schütz; or if you’re quoting Žižek’s review of Rasa Kaušiūtė’s concerts in Łódź, Rīga or Västerås. It’s also useful if you want to settle your account with Dŵr Cymru, or write about something in F♯ minor, or avoid calling Åström  Astrom, or writing lecon (obscene) instead of leçon (decent).  It also lets you produce some mathematical and financial characters (e.g. × ÷ ∞ ≠ ° ¹ ² ³ ¤ £ € ¥ ). You can even author correctly edited books and articles that use proper quotes (‘…’ or “… ” or «… » instead of "…" or '… '), Em dashes (—, not just - ), bullets (• ▪), section signs (§ ¶) and suchlike.

Extra characters are produced using one of the six dead keys —´ ` ^ ¨ ° ~ — followed by a second key (see Table 1, next). For more about dead keys in the PTkbd layout, click here.

TOF Table 1: key combinations for diacritic letters
Examples: to produce ä type dead key ¨ followed by a. To produce ă type dead key ° followed by q. To produce ç type dead key ~ followed by c. To produce é type dead key ´ followed by e. To produce ğ type dead key ° followed by g.


Ȩȩ is produced by ~ followed by E/e and can be rendered only in fonts with full Unicode support (e.g. Arial Unicode MS)

Ẽẽ is produced by ~ followed by W/w

* Ķķ is produced by ~ followed by K/k

* Ōō is produced by ` followed by K/k

* Ŝŝ is produced by ^ followed by X/x

TOF Table 2: symbol combinations with ´ (1)

´( «
´) »
´7 §
´ SP ´
´! ¡
´? ¿
´* ±
´= =
´. ´
´/ ¦
´\ |
´m μ
´+ ×
´_ ÷
´1 ¹
´2 ²
´3 ³
´4 ¼
´5 ½
´6 ¾

TOF Table 3: symbol combinations with ° and ` (2)

° °SP
| °°
¼ °2
½ °4
¾ °6


© °c
® °r
¤ `2
£ `3
¢ `c

¥ `y

+ ++
¨ ¨
º °k
← `<
→ `>
↑ `/
↓ `\
ª °d

TOF Multilingual layout: dead key info

This multilingual keyboard layout relies on six dead keys —´ ` ^ ¨ ° ~ — to produce all the extra characters shown above in Tables 1, 2 and 3.

Grave, tilde and circumflex (caret) (` ~ ^) have fixed positions on most anglophone computer keyboards but acute, diaeresis (Umlaut) and ring/degree (´ ¨ ° ) do not.

´ (acute) occupies the position of = (equals), ¨ (Umlaut) has been assigned the + (plus) position, and ° (ring/degrees) has taken over the | (vertical bar) key. Those three occupied key positions (= ¨ |) are instead produced instead by hitting the appropriate key twice in succession, so that == produces =, +++, |||. The occupying characters (´ ` ^ ¨ ° ~) on their own are generated by hitting the appropriate dead key followed by space, e.g. acute plus space produces acute on its own. i.e. (´SP´).

Simplified overview of one possible set of multilingual dead key positions on a computer keyboard


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TOF Phonetic font / keyboard



Symbols for English, French and Swedish phonemes. The symbols above read: När sjuksköterskan var färdig med son travail she descendait au garage for a quick smoke.

For alternative to installing this keyboard, see option 6a, below.

 Top 3. Кириллица клавиатура

Cyrillic keyboard for Westerners — PTrusskbd   KeyboardIcon

The following Cyrillic letters are more or less where Western Europeans might expect to hear/see them:

Aa Аа | Bb Бб | Dd Дд | Ff Фф | Gg Гг | Hh Хх | Ii Ии | Jj Йй | Kk Кк | Ll Лл | Mm Мм | Nn Нн | Oo Оо | Pp Пп | Rr Рр | Ss Сс | Tt Тт | Uu Уу | Vv Вв | Yy Ыы | Zz Зз

Other Cyrillic characters are produced as follows:

Ee Ее | _- Ээ | + = Ёё | Xx Жж | Cc Чч |Qq Шш | {[ Цц | }] Щщ | Ww Юю | ~` Яя | &* Өө |<, Ьь | °\ Ъъ |

Top 4. Greek polytonic / ελληνικό πληκτρολόγιο
(incl. Ancient Greek diacritics — GkPolytonicKbd)     

Includes all Modern Greek characters with accents (αάβγδεέζηήθιίκλμνοόπρσςτυύφχψωώ plus capitals, numerals and symbols). Based on standard Greek keyboard layout with colon and semicolon on Q and accent on ;

To produce "Ξενάκης" type "Jen;akhw" (; is the accent dead key preceding the requisite vowel, e.g. ά = ;a). This keyboard also includes all Ancient Greek letters with accents, breathings and iota subscripts and adscripts. Please note that these characters are only visible in fonts with full Unicode support (e.g. Arial Unicode MS): ἀ ἐ ἠ ἰ ὀ ὐ ὠ ἁ ἑ ἠ ἱ ὁ ὑ ὡ ἄ ἔ ἤ ἴ ὄ ὤ ἅ ἕ ἥ ἵ ὅ ὕ ὥ ᾳ ῃ ῳ ᾄ ᾔ ᾤ ᾇ ᾗ ᾧ ᾱ ῑ ῡ ῒ ῢ, etc., e.g. ᾠδή = {ψδ;η.

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5. 中国音乐通

“Ideographs for Idiots”: simple Chinese character generation for non-Sinophones


Also useful


Example: generating the Chinese character for the English word good.

  1. If you don't know the Chinese for good go to an online Chinese dictionary, e.g. this one.
  2. Type in good and press Search. You will be shown a list of possible translations of good into Chinese.
  3. Choose the most appropriate alternative. I’m selecting hăo (), as in nǐ hǎo (你 好) = How are you? Are you well (‘good’)?
  4. Click the Chinese character equivalent to hăo — and check the possible meanings displayed.
  5. If (hăo) is what you mean by good, select the character (double click) and copy it. Note that it is an actual character, not an image file.
  6. Paste the character into your document. If it turns out as a rectangle or a question mark it's probably because the font at that point in your document doesn't cover Chinese characters. If so, select that part of the text and change to a full Unicode font (e.g. Arial Unicode MS).

All ideographs on this page were produced using the procedures just described. Same goes for the words meaning ‘thank you’
(xiè xiè, 谢谢) and ‘Philip Tagg’ (dàofěilĭ, 道斐理, my Chinese name). That’s the sad extent of my knowledge of Chinese!
You can of course also copy and paste Chinese text from online documents if you can identify the ideographs you need to use.

谢谢 (道斐理)

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.



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6. Other keyboard and font solutions

6a Instead of installing a special phonetic keyboard layout, as described under §2↑, you can choose to enter phonetic symbols directly into your document by picking them from this site and pasting them where you want them to appear. Be aware that this method only covers phonetic symbols relevant to the English language.

6b Instead of installing an integral multilingual keyboard layout, as described under §1, you can choose to either try and make do with the conventional ‘international’ options offered by Windows or Macintosh, or to generate the missing glyph using a UTF code you can find in an online table somwhere, or to pick the missing glyph from a document containing it.

TOF Music fonts MusFontIcon64

There are plenty of music fonts available on the internet but very few of those are designed to be incorporated into standard text files. That is exactly what the two fonts XPTMusic.ttf and XPTChords.ttf, presented here, are supposed to do.

XPTMusic.ttf and XPTChords.ttf

TOF 1. XPTmusic.ttf or XPTmusic.otf (music fonts)

Both these fonts let you type musical symbols straight into standard text documents without increasing the line spacing. Please note that notation of pitches, as on a stave, cannot be contained in a standard text document and must be entered using musical notation software. Digitally stored notation must then be converted and exported to an image file (see video ‘MuseScore file transfer via image into Word’). Despite this two-stage workaround, many musical symbols —not just and can be usefully and easily included in a standard text document (see also Music Note Symbols).

XPTMusic.ttf (or *.otf) includes the sort of symbols (and more) shown below under ‘Description’, i.e. [1] basic unpitched rhythm notation; [2] accidentals; [3] dyanamics markings; [4] time signatures; [5] scale degree symbols (circumflexed numerals), etc.

Lead-sheet and roman-numeral chord shorthand symbols are contained in a special font set —XPTchords.ttf— presented below.

TOF Description

This font lets you type, with simple keystrokes, the following sort of symbols into word-processed documents.



TOF 2. XPTchords.ttf

XPTchords.ttf specialises in the sort of symbols shown below, i.e. lead-sheet and roman-numeral chord symbols for tertial and quartal tonality (see Everyday Tonality II, chapters 7-10). For other musical symbols, see XPTmusic, above.


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Symbol fonts / keyboards

XPTSymbols1.ttf or XPTSymbols1.otf



Many symbols in this font are icons aimed at making the reference apparatus of learned books and articles about music and modern media into a less burdensome, more efficient exercise. I've written about these issues in Guidelines for producing a Reference Appendix for Studies of Music in the 21st Century.

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