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:new: 2020-01-06

UK Extended keyboard with even more extensions

Recently, I switched from a German QWERTZ to a UK Extended QWERTY keyboard layout - for easier access to characters for programming.

The UK Extended keyboard is great in that it still provides means to type umlaut characters which I still need when writing German mails. For normal umlauts, you can type AltGr + 2 followed by any vowel to get e.g. ä, ö or ü. To the get the “sz” ligature, in Linux, you can type AltGr + s which produces a ß.

However, after changing the keyboard layout on my Windows 10 work PC, I’ve noticed that the official UK Extended layout doesn’t usually provide the ß. And while Linux people were smart and added it, in Windows AltGr + s does nothing.

But luckily, Microsoft provides a small tool to create custom keyboard layouts: The Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator. And it still works with Windows 10.

During installation, make sure to install it into a path without any spaces, because otherwise you won’t be able to compile the layouts. I’ve installed it into C:\kbdcreator.

After installation, you can run it from the Start menu. Choose File –> Load Existing Keyboard… and look for “United Kingdom Extended” to not have to start from scratch.

With the keyboard loaded, check the box “Alt+Ctrl (AltGr)” on the left and then click the “s” (VK_S) button. An input box should appear - copy&paste a “ß” (U+00df) and click “OK”.

Now also check the “Shift” checkbox on the left and click “s” again. This time, copy&paste the upper case version “ẞ” (U+1e9e) and confirm with “OK”.

You can now edit the Metadata by opening Project –> Properties. Remember, what you’ve configured as the “Description” and “Language”. That’s where you’ll find the keyboard again later.

Once you’re satisfied, you can compile the keyboard by selecting Project –> Build DLL and Setup Package. This will build installers for 32bit and 64bit Windows. After that is done, you’re asked if you want to open the output folder. Do this and double-click the setup.exe to install your newly created keyboard.

With this installed, you can now open the Windows Control Panel and add this keyboard to your system.

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