How do I create a custom keyboard for Windows 8? Difficulty: Parallels.
June 13, 2014 10:29 AM   Subscribe

I need to create a custom keyboard for Windows 8, which I'm running in a Bootcamp partition with Parallels. Microsoft Keyboard Creator doesn't work (some people claim it does despite not being supported, but it didn't work for me.)

Microsoft Keyboard Creator seemed to work. It even said it installed the keyboard successfully. The keyboard isn't actually working though. My custom keyboard shows up in the list of keyboards, but there doesn't seem to be any way to select it. Instead, I have the option to select a Turkish apple keyboard (not the base of the keyboard I created) that doesn't actually do anything (I press a key with it selected and nothing happens).

There has to be a way to create a custom keyboard layout for Windows 8! I can't keep typing in Notes and then copying and pasting to my windows program... it's not practical.

(Note: A custom keyboard really is the best solution, I'm created a keyboard for transcription of a language that uses a lot of special characters. The solution needs to be efficient to type.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi to Computers & Internet (4 answers total)
I can't advise on custom keyboard layout software, alas, but I do have a couple of snippets that might help. Parallels does a couple of things to a 'standard' windows setup. First, it adds an additional default keyboard based upon the apple mac keyboard - I think when you install the drivers - but you don't have to use that one.

You can definitely install a custom layout and use it in windows 8, I install a prebuilt UK colemak layout, in a win 8.1 parallels install which works fine as a user-level keyboard. Layouts are associated with a given language, which are installed via a language pack - so if a layout is based/on associated with a language you don't have installed, then it likely won't show up.

You also have parallels over-ride keyboard settings when running in OSX; by default, it adds apple standard shortcuts to the windows ones. You can customise those heavily, or turn them off if they're getting in the way.

So three alternative ideas spring to mind:
1) If the language you're transcribing is available for windows as a language pack, you can install that, and get that language associated keyboard sets too - you don't have to actually use the language pack as the interface language (ie what language the menus etc are in) to use the keyboard layout.

2) use the parallels custom keyboard shortcuts to map your changes over the existing windows keyboard, and possibly reuse certain combinations to manage it. This would work ok for a relatively small number of diacritics etc for use with modifier keys, and means you'd be doing the work from osx, without altering your windows install at all, but won't work for changing letters outright very well.

3) brute force it with autohotkey. Autohotkey is a great utility for over-riding keyboard layout on the fly, and gives you a lot of flexibility for changing hotkeys (modifier + keypress) to what you want as long as autohotkey is running. Here's a couple of example (old) autohotkey scripts that made windows do special characters the way osx does, which might give you some ideas.
posted by ArkhanJG at 5:48 PM on June 13, 2014

While searching around, I found this tidbit about needing to add some registry entries to get the Programmer Dvorak custom layout working. I am not sure how to find the actual values you'd use for your case though.
posted by Aleyn at 6:06 PM on June 13, 2014

This thread might be helpful for finding the layout number that you'd need to use for the MS Keyboard Creator solution.
posted by Aleyn at 6:11 PM on June 13, 2014

Response by poster: ArkhanJG, can you tell me more about having Parallels override the windows keys? I have a custom keyboard for this language made for OSX, which I use in OSX. But when I'm using Parallels, the keyboard automatically switches back to the default US keyboard when I'm using a Windows application. Are you saying that there is a setting I can change to get my custom OSX keyboard to work?

(The language doesn't have a language pack - it doesn't even have an official writing system, but I'm pretty sure that I just made it an English keyboard. It showed up as US international - custom in the list of installed keyboards with the other US English keyboards, but it didn't show up in the language bar and I couldn't figure out how to select it.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:10 AM on June 14, 2014

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