Mac OS X Keyboard Layouts on Windows
A while back, Ben was trying to replicate certain keyboard niceties
from the wonderful Mac OS X in Windows. As a fellow
superhero with an alter ego and utter pedant, I was intrigued, so decided to dig
further into the problem.
Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator
The Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator seems the most obvious
option to start with: it allows re-mapping of all of the standard keys
on a keyboard (all the way across to the return key), along with the use
of any of the Windows modifiers (
AltGr - which is
the same as pressing
Alt together; apparently
considered a “Shift state” by the Keyboard Layout Creator)
It’s easy enough to get most of the way to Mac OS X keyboard goodness:
one can assign whatever characters to keys as one sees fit, assign
values for the aforementioned modifiers, and generally make some pretty
cool changes to your keyboard layout. This lets us get most of the way
towards the dream of proper, nice OS X typography on Windows: you can
rearrange the standard keyboard, set up
AltGr to behave like the
Opt with lots of keys, and generally get most of the real
niceness in OS X done, and using native Windows functionality.
Warning: the following will almost certainly make the characters shown on your keyboard not match those they produce in Windows (unless you use Windows through Virtual PC on Mac OS X, in which case they will match more). If you have to look at the keys to remember which is which, using this is not advised. I cannot be held responsible for you breaking/being unable to use your computer if you use this.
To save everyone the time and effort, however, I’ve already made a keyboard layout for Windows. To install the new layout, simply unzip the file and run the contained MacOSUK.msi. To then set the layout up for use, go to Control Panel>Regional and Language Options>Languages, click Details…, then click Add…, and set ‘Input Language’ to 'English (United Kingdom)’ and 'Keyboard layout/IME’ to 'United Kingdom (Mac OS X)’. Click Ok, and then Apply.
With this, the Windows language bar should appear on your task bar. You can then switch between United Kingdom (Mac OS X) keyboard and whatever other keyboard layout you so choose. Alternatively, you could remove other keyboard layouts in the 'Text Service and Input Languages’ (the one where you added the new layout), making the new Mac OS X style layout your default (and hiding the language bar).
The one thing that this doesn’t cover, though, is the neat little
tricks you can do in Mac OS X to create characters like ñ: hold
n followed by
n on its own, along with various others of
a similar ilk.
Here is where AutoHotKey, that Ben mentioned, comes in: you can specify character replacement strings which are identified as you type (think auto-correct for letters). The observant members of the audience will already be thinking to themselves 'but didn’t you just link to a homebrew keyboard layout to make our Windows keyboards just like those on the Mac, save a few keys?’
Why yes I did Billy, yes I did.
With a combination of AutoHotKey and our Mac-esque keyboard layout, we
can have almost identical input on Mac and Windows, save the need, on
Windows, to use
AltGr in lieu of the Mac’s
Once again, because I’ve more time on my hands than is necessarily healthy, I’ve already made an AutoHotKey script for most of the easier accent chords. Notably absent are grave chords (due to what appears to be a bug in AutoHotKey’s Unicode handling, I felt compelled to leave them commented out) and all those chords that create characters with no extended-ASCII value.
To use it, install and run AutoHotKey, right-click the system tray icon and select 'Edit This Script’. Copy and paste the contents of my script into this script (either overwrite or append it), save, and select 'Reload This Script’ from the menu of AutoHotKey’s system tray icon.
That’s all, folks!
By this point, you should have Mac OS X style text input on your humble Windows computer. The only thing that’s missing now is switching the modifier keys so that they’re all laid out like the Mac but, thus far, I’ve not found any program that successfully achieves that. I’ll let you know when I do.