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March 8, 2007 4:58 PM   Subscribe

Any hints or tricks for dealing with unfamiliar foreign keyboards when travelling abroad?

I can't seem to adapt to non-QWERTY keyboards in other countries. Japanese keyboards are really tough, but even French AZERTY keyboards are challenging. I know about gate2home, but are there any better ways of coping with unfamiliar keyboards on shared or public computers?
posted by roofus to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
The best way is to change the keyboard layout in the control panel (or similar function) of any modern operating environment.
posted by grouse at 5:09 PM on March 8, 2007

Response by poster: The control panel functions on public machines are usually locked down, to stop such meddling. In addition I'm probably a liability, blundering about in someone else's settings in a foreign language.
posted by roofus at 5:37 PM on March 8, 2007

I see. Are you looking for a software solution (like gate2home but better) or one to help you retrain yourself more easily? If a software solution, what don't you like about gate2home? If it's retraining, it's not easy, and I wouldn't try it.
posted by grouse at 5:48 PM on March 8, 2007

Response by poster: I was hoping either for a webapp that didn't require the cutting and pasting of gate2home, or even just a simple guide to how to use each keyboard correctly. This profoundly n00bish, but I discovered last week that I couldn't type a "@" at all on a French PC keyboard. (I may be somewhat Mac enculturated, exacerbating the problem)
posted by roofus at 5:58 PM on March 8, 2007

If you haven't figured out how to get @ yet (it is unclear from your reply), you should know this: On many European PC keyboards there are three characters shown on some keys (rather than the two on symbol/number keys on US and Mac keyboards). To get the additional symbol, use the AltGr modifier key.

I'm not sure what else you want in a guide on how to use the keyboard correctly. The only other surprise I can think of on another Western keyboard are dead keys. Are there other things you couldn't figure out?
posted by grouse at 6:16 PM on March 8, 2007

Actually, I find that I do get used to the keyboards after a bit, it just takes patience. A lot of the letters are the same, there are just a few that shift places or are hidden & need to be created with option or something. At first it's tricky, but like anything if you do it enough it becomes normal to you in repetition. Yes, you may type slower at first, but you'll get it. I haven't used the japanese keyboard, but I've used keyboards in german, french, arabic & turkish speaking countries. (I found the turkish keyboard the hardest for some reason.) I'll admit if there's a character I really keep forgetting how to create, I will cheat & cut and paste it sometimes though.

Hang in there.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:45 PM on March 8, 2007

Take your time.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:56 PM on March 8, 2007

When I have been in a quick / emergency type situation, and needed to find the "@" to access my email, I just googled "email", then cut and pasted the first "@" I saw on the screen.

Kludgy, I know, but it worked.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:21 PM on March 8, 2007

The AZERTY keyboard is only a few swapped letters. I have never seen an asian keyboard that didn't have roman letters on them. My gf's Japnese Sony picturebook has them, and the only different part is the punctuation.

Unless you are writing a novel on a public computer, I really don't see the concern.

If it really annoys you, bring your own keyboard. I bring my Happy Hacking keyboard with me if I travel and need to type a lot.
posted by mphuie at 7:38 PM on March 8, 2007

I had the same problem, but right now I can switch between the french, german and english keyboard types without problems. I don't even think about it anymore, just look at the keyboard once and my fingers know how to behave.

My advice is this: stick with it. You'll soon be using the foreign keyboard without problems, and it keeps your typing brain flexible.
posted by markesh at 1:03 AM on March 9, 2007

Every single internet cafe I have been in allowed changing keyboard layouts. The computers all have a little box in the system tray at the bottom right, which allows you to change from a few common ones or add US english.

If you can change the settings, then you are scott free as long as you know how to touch type.

The icon is a little blue or white square with a few characters in it.
posted by OldReliable at 4:40 AM on March 9, 2007

Turkish keyboards are especially tricky. The easiest thing seems to be just dealing with it.

A bit more brevity in emails and blog posts is probably a good thing.
posted by sindark at 5:56 AM on March 9, 2007

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