I started a Graduate Diploma in Humanities at the University of New England this year and got sick of my Open Office macro toolbars for entering special characters. So, after some googling, I decided that a custom keyboard layout would be my only salvation. So, here’s an installer created under 64-bit Windows 7 (that should work for 32-bit as well) that probably also works in Vista, I’d be willing to bet. Not sure about Windows XP, though (had to restore an Acronis image of my C: drive yesterday and I couldn’t be bothered installing XP Mode again to find out!).
Download: MF Latin Keyboard Layout.zip (250 KB)
Once installed, you’ll get to see a Language Bar at the bottom-right of your Windows Taskbar (more info here if your third eyelid just came down). Unfortunately, since Microsoft don’t regard Latin as a language anybody in their right mind would speak or use, there’s no way to change the description. So, since my main keyboard is “English (Australian)” and my custom keyboard is an adaptation of an existing keyboard layout, it’ll appear as “English (United States)” for us Aussies. This might be confusing for those in the United States, however, so Americans might prefer to download the Latin.klc file on which I based the installer, open it using the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator, and assign it to another language so you can at least tell them apart (maybe “Latvian”? almost looks like “Latin”).
Whenever you need to type a letter with a macron or a plain, old, accent, you first have to switch to the different keyboard in the Language Toolbar for the application you’re using. So, do that first! Then, whenever you want to get an “a” with a macron, just type a left-square-bracket before you press “a” and Bob’s your uncle: ā. This will mean that you have to press left-square-bracket twice if you actually want one of those. Similarly, to get an “a” with an accent, press the back-tick/tilde key (`~) before pressing “a”, and then you get: á. The letters I’ve enabled this way are as follows: āēīōūȳ, ĀĒĪŌŪȲ, áéíóú, and ÁÉÍÓÚ.
I also cleared out the existing dead keys in the “English (United States)” template with which I started, so this keyboard might not be for you if you want to type even more special characters. I just didn’t like the idea of turning my apostophe into a dead key! Also, the letters with macrons are actually unicode, so you’ll be typing a hybrid document, probably not into an old DOS editor, though :-) It won’t like that.
Happy accentuating and macronising!