Maltese Keyboards

Download Paulseph Maltese Keyboards 1.1

Writing proper Maltese has always been a difficulty due to the lack of availability of non-Roman characters, such as ċ, ġ, ħ and ż, on input devices. For computing equipment, the initial solutions were based around custom fonts which replaced certain glyphs, such as {, }, [ and ], for the non-Roman characters. However, documents with this type of solution are limited to using only these fonts, and non-portable, as they require the recipient to have the same set of fonts installed.

A more appropriate solution for character encoding is the use of Unicode. However, there is still an issue in how to type in these characters. Most modern word processing applications support some means to manually insert non-Roman characters. However, these methods are clumsy and not standardised across applications. It should be noted that the Malta Standards Authority has in fact defined a Maltese keyboard layout. However, this seems to have followed the same kludge as for the older fonts - it requires brackets and other symbols to be replaced with the Maltese special characters.

Defining the standard in such a manner seems shortsighted for a number of reasons. Firstly, swapping the bracketing keys would be a major nuisance for anyone who, like myself, is an adept touch typist. Secondly, it fails to address the reality that most keyboards in use in the Maltese Islands are either US or UK keyboards, and the configuration fails to retrospectively support them by making the new mappings "meaningful" even if the layout is only changed at the software level. This is especially important given that the manufacturing and introduction of a radically different standard is not bound to be easy in a limited market.

In an effort to simplify the input of Maltese text, I came up with a redefinition of US or UK keyboards that provides support for Maltese Unicode input in a simple manner. The layouts provide the same key bindings as normally expected, and in addition provide combinations to input 'ħ' using AltGr+h (or Ctrl+Alt+h), 'Ħ' using AltGr+Shift+H (or Ctrl+Alt+Shift+H) and so on. This method should work with any application that supports Unicode, requires no re-learning of the keyboard layout, and is intuitive in terms of learning the new bindings.

The Maltese keyboard layouts are made freely available with an installer application for Windows 2000, Windows XP and higher, for anyone who would like to avail of this functionality. They are provided as is, without warranty or explicit support of any kind. However, feel free to forward any comments and suggestions for improvements.

User Feedback

Feedback received from users of the Maltese keyboard drivers:

"... I have dowloaded your maltese keyboard. Very good, it will save me time inserting (Publisher, Powerpoint) or pasting (Access) the maltese characters. Although I had a solution for Word using shortcut keys other Microsoft office programs are not so accommodating and it will be some more time before I upgrade to Windows XP sp2. Thanks and well done. Fr Charles Mallia, Rector Saint Elias College "