Apple Romanian keyboard layout for Windows running on Mac

I recently evaluated the status of Romanian language support on various platforms and I decided that now it is reasonable to start using Romanian extensively, including on Web pages, eMail, etc.

There are still compatibility problems with some old devices (like mobile phones), or some XP fonts (that do not look great), but on modern platforms like Windows 7 and Mac OS X, the problems were already solved.


Taken separately, both platforms offer full suport for entering Romanian diacritics (the keyboard layouts) and for displaying them (the Unicode fonts fully and correctly implement the Romanian glyphs).

However, with the advent of virtualisation technologies, Mac OS X users have now a convenient way of running Windows programs simultaneously with Mac OS X, so in order to get along, both platforms need to follow the same rules.

If Unicode successfully levelled differences between platforms in terms of encodings and fonts, the current virtualisation solutions are not yet ready to level differences on entering localised characters. Even worse, the Apple Romanian keyboards do not match any of the Windows Romanian keyboard layouts, so using diacritics in a Windows virtual machine running on a Mac with an Apple Romanian keyboard can be quite tedious and confusing.

Apple Romanian keyboard layouts

On Mac OS X, Apple provided 2 keyboard layouts, one called “Romanian”, and one called “Romanian – Standard”. The first one might not be standard, but it matches the layout of the Apple Romanian keyboard, which is identical to the US International keyboard, with the addition of the 5 Romanian diacritics on some of the keys.

HT2841 Wireless Romanian

Please note that this layout is not compliant with the current Romanian National Standard SR 13392:2004, neither with the primary nor the secondary layout. However, being upward compatible with the US International layout, it’s quite easy to use.

On the other side, although this layout is non-standard, it is a commercial reality; when buying Apple keyboards in Romania, this is the default layout you’ll get. When I found out, I was outraged and tried to change the order for a true US keyboard, but after seeing the Apple Romanian layout, I realised that the compromise made by Apple is acceptable.

Windows Romanian keyboard layouts

As previously mentioned, there are two Romanian standards, the primary one, more or less similar to old Romanian typewriters:

RO primary

and the secondary one, more similar to the US layout:

RO secondary

Unfortunately none of them match the Apple Romanian keyboard layout. The secondary one may look closer, but the position of the Romanian diacritics is completely different.

The solution

After comparing all these details, I reached the conclusion that the best option would be for the virtualisation technology to implement a pass-through keyboard, and to replicate the settings from the host to the guest; when the host changes the language, the change should be automatically applied to the guest; when the host changes the keyboard layout, the generated codes should be automatically transferred to the guest.

In my opinion, such a pass-through keyboard can be implemented in the guest Tools package. Well, as a developer, I can imagine this might not be that easy, and might take some time; so meanwhile we should look for a compromise.

The compromise

Considering that editing Windows custom keyboards layouts is no longer a problem, one possible compromise would be to have a Windows custom layout that replicates the Apple keyboard layout.

I did this, and I created a Windows keyboard layout called Romanian (Mac OS X).

MSKLC MacRom

This layout replicates the Apple keyboard layout as accurately as possible. The Romanian diacritics are available directly, as all other letters.

To access the right parentheses [ ] \, you need to press the alt key placed on the right side of the keyboard (AltGr key in Microsoft parlance).

MSKLC MacRom Alt

Similarly, to access the curly braces { } |, you need to press both the shift key and the right alt key.

The grey keys are special, and are called Dead Keys. When used, they apparently do nothing, but in fact they prepare entering the accented characters. For example the german ö is obtained by fist entering ¨ and then the regular o, where ¨ is available as alt u.

Conclusion

Although not perfect, such a solution is a more convenient compromise than using two different layouts when switching between Mac OS X and virtual Windows. It can also be used when running Windows in Boot Camp, with Apple keyboards.

The current version of the Romanian (Mac OS X) keyboard layout is available as a free download from GitHub.

About Liviu Ionescu (ilg)
Hi! My name is Liviu Ionescu (ilg, ilegeul or eunete for colleagues and friends) and I’m a senior IT engineer. Or should I say a real programmer?

5 Responses to Apple Romanian keyboard layout for Windows running on Mac

  1. Pingback: Apple Romanian keyboard layout for Windows running on Mac (via ilg The Geek’s blog) « Chicago Mac/PC Support

  2. Pingback: 2010 in review « ilg The Geek's blog

  3. mihai says:

    Mulțumesc!

  4. Laur says:

    Mulțumesc!

  5. Razvan says:

    Mulțumesc ! Funționeaza perfect ! Mult timp am cautat o solutie si intr-un final am gasit-o aici.

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