International Keyboard

The next learning experience for me involved learning about typing in Spanish on my American English computer. And the answer is actually quite simple, and involves software. There is a setting you can make to switch your keyboard to International Keyboard, and there are both British and American versions available. I first printed out the keyboard layout from the Wikipedia site linked above. I suspect that after a bit of practice I will get used to the added functionality, but I am keeping this printout around in case I need to do more. I have already discovered that this is so easy it won’t take long at all. And I want to give a shout-out to @pilum@octodon.social, one of my Mastodon contacts who steered me to this.

KDE for Spanish

To make the software change, I went into my System Settings in my Kubuntu 18.04 machine, then to Input Devices–>Keyboard–>Layouts, then click on Configure Layouts. That will make the next steps open for you. In the first drop-down, make sure it says “Any Language”, and in the second one the layout for your existing keyboard. In my case that is English (US). These settings may already be the default, but this is what I did. Then you pick your variant, and I picked English (US, international AltGr Unicode combining). Then you can add a label, and I picked Int as the obvious one. Click OK, and you should see something like this (in KDE).

Settings for Alternative keyboard layout
Settings for Alternative keyboard layout

The last step is to click Apply in the lower right. Then go to the Advanced tab, click Configure Keyboard Options, and scroll down to Switching to another layout, and pick a keyboard shortcut. I picked LeftCtrl+LeftShift. Again, click Apply on the lower right. If you have done this correctly, you should see a new indicator appear. Mine is in the bottom tray, and looks like this:

Keyboard layout indicator
Keyboard layout indicator

You can press the shortcut key and watch it switch back and forth.

The key difference in this International layout is the Alt key on the right is now dedicated to producing International characters. For example, many European languages have the letter “n”, which we inherited from the Romans. But Spanish has an additional letter other languages don’t have, called the “enya”, which is ñ. With my keyboard in the International setting, all I do is hold down the right Alt key and press “n”, and I get an ñ. Couldn’t be easier. Some other Spanish characters are equally easy.

¿ = Right Alt+?

¡ = Right Alt+!

á = Right Alt+a

é = Right Alt+e

í = Right Alt+i

ó = Right Alt+o

ú = Right Alt+u

Other Languages

There is more than just Spanish, of course. There are versions of a, o, and u with umlauts for those with a need for German, and a few Scandinavian characters. Also, you get a few currency symbols like the Euro, Pound, and Yen. So this is a generally useful setting if you have any need for these things. Now that I know how to do it, I will always have this option available on any computer I have.

Windows 10

I mostly use Kubuntu as my daily operating system, but I do keep one Windows box around for things like Gaming, so I thought it was worth taking a look at how to add a new keyboard layout there. To begin, click on the Start button on the lower left, then Settings. Click on Time and Language. Then click Language, select English (United States), and click Options. Go to the Keyboards section on the bottom, click on Add a Keyboard, and go to United States – International. When this is added, you will see new indicator on the bottom Task Bar. It will say ENG US, but if you click on it a pop-up window will open that lets you switch. If you switch to the International keyboard, the indicator will change to ENG INTL. From here, everything works just the same as it did with KDE, The Right Alt key will let you add all of the special characters.

Chromebook

I have an old Linux laptop, but it is not only old, it is large and heavy, so about a year ago I purchased a Chromebook to replace both the laptop and my Android tablet that died. It has worked out well for me, and I decided to implement the International keyboard here as well, and it is quite easy. Open the laptop, and go to the bottom right and click on the Time. This will pop-up a window that has a Settings button. Click that, then scroll down to Advanced. Go to Languages and Input. The very top setting is also called Languages and Input, and in the bottom of that area is Manage Input Methods. Open that, and put a check mark in the box for US International Keyboard. As soon as you do, you will see a new indicator on the bottom tray (called the Shelf in Chromebook) that says US. Then click the Back button to go to the Input Methods area, and you will now see two keyboards. Click the one you want enabled. If you select the US International Keyboard, the indicator on the bottom tray will now read INTL instead of US. Then click the button for “Show input options on the shelf”. That will turn the indicator on the shelf into a clickable button marked IN (for Input) that lets you select your keyboard.

So, I now have the International keyboard installed on all of my computers, and that is a good thing. It should help me with my learning of Spanish.

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