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Keyboard Layout Creator

by Jocelyn Doire

In the March 1998 newsletter (, Jean Vaumoron wrote an article on how to use the United States International keyboard to enter almost any French characters, but there was one missing character, the Œ (the letter O and E attached together) used in words such as "cœur", the heart.

Now, there are many ways to enter the Πcharacter, such as with Character Map (>start>programs>accessories>System Tools>Character Map), or with special keys in some programs (in Word press ctrl+shift+&, O), but they are all a bit complicated.

It is a little strange that this character was not included given that there are plenty of keys not assigned to anything. For example the AltGr-X would be a logical place to put it, just beside the (AltGr+Z) key. (Note: the keyboard has two Alt keys; the one on the left of the space bar is called "Alt", and the one on the right is called AltGr, which is also available using the Alt+Ctrl key combination).

Fortunately you don't have to remain stuck with a particular keyboard layout. You can modify one, or even create one, by using a program such as the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator (MSKLC), which is available for free at .

The download and the installation of that program requires you to accept Microsoft's conditions, but once that is done, the installation is fairly simple, provided you have the .NET already installed, and that you are running Windows 2000 or later. To get all the features, you may need to have WinXP and later, but that was not a problem for me when I used it under Win2k.

MSKLC starts with a blank keyboard, but most of the time you will want to edit a pre-existing keyboard, and in my case I loaded the "United States-International" from the list of all the keyboard layouts available on your system.




The main screen shows a standard keyboard with the "state" keys in black (such as the Alt, Ctrl, etc), the "dead" keys in a dark grey, and the "assignable" keys in a light grey.



The keyboard layout is made of several layers depending on the selected "shift states" on the left side of the screen. Some of the states can be combined and some are mutually exclusive.

In my case, I wanted to combine the Alt key on the right of the space bar with the letter X and assign this combination to the character Œ, so I selected the state "Alt+Ctrl (AltGR)".



Clicking on any of the assignable keys opens a text field where you can enter up to 4 characters. Clicking on the "All…" button opens a larger window that shows all the characters that a particular key can have. The character(s) can be entered using pretty much any method available to Windows, including typing the character(s), dragging and dropping from other applications, or again entering the Unicode code (U+XXXX). In my example, I entered œ for AltGr+X, and Œ for AltGr+SHIFT+X.



Once the keyboard layout is complete, it can be tested in two different ways using the project menu; the first one validates the layout automatically by checking for things like duplications, and the second one lets you try the new keyboard using a text pad. When you are satisfied with the layout, you can then create an MSI and a DLL file that lets you install the new keyboard on any compatible computer.

I could cover other features included with the MSKLC such as assigning dead keys or changing the scan code, but I think that's enough to get a good idea of what the program can do.



Another program that looks good, but I didn't try, can be found at http://solair.eunet.yu/~minya/Programs/klm/KbdEdit.html

And finally, Microsoft has a site that has all the standard keyboards in a very convenient dynamic window that updates as you move the mouse over the keys. It’s available at

Bottom Line:

Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator (Freeware}
Microsoft Corporation

Originally published: May, 2005

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