Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Multilingual Braille Converter

OS X comes with 5 Unicode Braille character fonts. In looking for some way to use them other than input via the Character Palette, which is very cumbersome, I came across this online Braille Converter. Besides English, it also appears to handle more than a dozen other languages.

Writing Ancient Egyptian 2009

In an earlier article I wrote about typing Egyptian Hieroglyphs using non-Unicode systems. Now Unicode version 5.2 includes the Gardiner set of 1071 Hieroglyphs, and you can input them from the Character Palette using the font Aegyptus.

For info relating the Unicode set to the Manual de Codage (MdC) system, see this note.

I wonder if one could make some kind of useful keyboard IM for these using the OS X Custom IM Generator…

(12/1/2009) A reader has posted an experimental MdC IM .cin file here. Others are encouraged to give it a try.

Friday, November 20, 2009

OS X 10.6: Switching the Arabic-PC Keyboard

It was an excellent idea for Apple to include an Arabic - PC keyboard layout in Snow Leopard. But one has to wonder where they got the mapping they used. A poster in the Apple forums pointed out that the character Thal ذ (U+0630) is at an obscure non-standard location (Option/alt + 3) and the character Shadda ّ (U+0651) is not present at all, at least on an ANSI keyboard.
Normally, as shown here, these characters are on the leftmost key of the top row. On an ISO (102-key) layout, they should be next to Return.

For an alternative layout that I think comes closer to what PC users expect, try this one.

Oddly enough, the Arabic - PC layout that was included in Leopard is OK.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Three Keyboards for Canadian French

Recently someone asked for a Canadian French keyboard layout, and to my surprise I found that there are at least 3 of them in use, all quite different. Apple provides Canadian French - CSA with OS X, and another one, Canadien Français, with a Quebec flag icon, can be found here. Finally, there is the Canadian French which Apple provided with OS 9. You can get this one from my iDisk.

This graphic shows the differences in the layouts.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

How to Convert Old .rsrc Keyboard Layouts

Originally Mac keyboard layouts came in the form of .rsrc files. Unfortunately these sometimes no longer work in the latest versions of OS X, or don't work for all apps. Thanks to info on the Ukelele site, I've located a way to convert these to the newer .keylayout format.

Download and install the Apple Font Tool package from here. Then put your old .rsrc keyboard file in your Home directory, open Terminal, and type

klkchrtoxml name.rsrc

If all goes well, you should find a new file, name.rsrc.keylayout, in your Home directory. There will also be an .icns file if your old layout had an icon in it. If that command doesn't work, you can also try

kluchrtoxml name.rsrc

Friday, November 13, 2009

iPhone/iPod Touch: Useful Language Apps

A key feature of the iPhone/iPod Touch is the ability to draw Chinese and Japanese characters on its screen. I don't know how useful this is for creating text, but it is an invaluable replacement for radical/stroke analysis when looking up these characters in a dictionary. For Japanese I am using the app Kotoba and for Chinese DianHua.

Other language apps I've found so far that seem especially useful or high quality are the mobile version of Google Translate, the Larousse Dictionnaire de Français, the Classic Greek dictionary Lexiphanes, and the Latin dictionary Lexidium.

Additional suggestions by readers are most welcome.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Expanded Unicode Input on iPhone/iPod Touch

I've been looking for a way to generate any Unicode character on an iPhone or iPod Touch but have not found an app yet which does this. I tried a variety of charts and virtual keyboards reachable via Safari, and the best one seems to be

Macchiato's Character Picker

You can adjust the page size and save it to one of the app screens, and then select the character range that appears on the virtual keys and input them into the text box at the top. Unfortunately the device keyboard pops up after every entry, but you can dismiss that. In order to copy/paste the result you have created, you must let the Apple keyboard remain after inputting your last character.

(12/15) The iPhone/iPod Touch app Unicode Table now has a copy/paste function for individual characters which is easier than using the website mentioned above.