Virtual Keyboards: Input Multilingual Character Sets for the Web | WebReference

Virtual Keyboards: Input Multilingual Character Sets for the Web

By Rob Gravelle


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The inclusion of multilingual page content can help draw more visitors to your web site. That has been the premise of my article series on Web Site Globalization. In particular, my article "Increase Site Traffic by Including Multi-language Content in Your Web Pages" explored the use of character and numeric references in HTML. It also listed several good What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editors that support Unicode. In the follow-up article, "Create Multilingual Web Sites with Windows Unicode Fonts," we learned how to install multilingual language packs in Windows. Elaborating on that theme, this article discusses a specialized tool called a virtual keyboard.

Virtual keyboards can be very useful when working with non-English character sets, because unlike the techniques I discussed previously, virtual keyboards eliminate the need to know the codes for every character. On the negative side, keyboard apps that rely on the mouse can be a hindranceĀ—especially to fast typists. Read on for an overview of this tool, and then you can decide whether a virtual keyboard might be for you.

Work from Anywhere

Any virtual keyboard manufacturer's site will expound on the many virtues of its product. Among the Virtual Keyboard's chief benefits are its uses when traveling abroad:

  • You can access your web resources from any location in the world without missing national keyboard layouts and fonts on their machines. Hence, one can travel around the world and use local Internet access (at an Internet café, for example) with no need for additional multilingual keyboard support.
  • You can work with such web services as text content search, word processing, mail messaging, personal detail forms, and text spelling in your native language while on the road.

Some Popular Choices for Multilingual Web Page Authoring

Of course, the virtual keyboard's usefulness extends to web page authoring as well. The following are a few good virtual keyboard examples across the three main operating systems.

Microsoft Visual Keyboard

The Microsoft Visual Keyboard is a utility that allows you to view the keyboard layout for each input locale within Microsoft Office applications. Microsoft Visual Keyboard supports typing in more than one language on the same computer by showing you a keyboard for another language on your screen. Visual Keyboard lets you see the keyboard for the language you've switched to on your screen, so that you can either click the keys on your screen or see the correct keys to press to enter text. You then can type in a new language either by clicking the keys in the on-screen display, or by using the on-screen display to guide you in the use of the real keyboard. Visual Keyboard also works with Adobe GoLive 5, Namo WebEditor and Mozilla Composer.

Microsoft Visual Keyboard


Tavultesoft Corporation

Tavultesoft offers a couple of virtual keyboard products.

Keyman Desktop

Keyman Desktop is a program that allows you to use custom-designed keyboards for input. This makes it possible to input in languages such as Burmese, Amharic, or Urdu, or even just to use alternate keyboard layouts for languages such as English or French. Designed with ease of use in mind, Keyman Desktop features an on-screen keyboard and close integration with Windows. You can download packages of keyboards and fonts from the Internet and install them with a single mouse click.

Keyman Desktop 7.1 is available in three editions:

  • Professional Edition: Fully-featured version suitable for home, small business and education. $59.00 USD
  • Corporate Edition: Professional Edition with additional support and deployment suitable for larger sites. Setup can be tailored to your requirements. Pricing for the corporate edition is also dependent on the requirements of your computing environment.
  • Light Edition: Contains only basic features. Allows installation of up to two keyboards. $19.00 USD

Keyman Desktop

KeymanWeb

Keyman also provides this widget, which provides multilingual input for your web site. It allows visitors from around the world to input text in their own languages for blogs, search screens, help questions, or any other process that requires user input. The widget connects to a subscription-based web service.

Tavultesoft does offer an entry-level KeymanWeb subscription, which is free. More full-featured versions can be purchased through one of four packages.

KeymanWeb


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