Maltese Keyboard

I’ve never fancied the Maltese Government-developed 47/48-key keyboard that started shipping with PCs in the mid-2000’s. In my opinion, the way it was chosen was too biased in favor of those who had already, by that time, become accustomed to the Tabone/Star “Maltese fonts” of the early 1990’s. While those fonts were extremely popular, and were pretty much the only available Maltese character system for Windows PCs, not everyone was using Windows. And no-one involved at the time of the fonts’ creation seemed to realize that there already was a standard font encoding that included Maltese characters (i.e. ISO 8859-3:1988, and now ISO/IEC 8859-3:1999). Or indeed that fonts in that encoding (and therefore with Maltese characters) were available for purchase by a number of foundries. For instance, on the Acorn RISC OS system I was using, not only were the fonts available, but so was a keyboard layout app that enabled access to the Maltese-specific characters simply by pressing right-Alt in combination with the corresponding key.

Over time, as the systems I was using expanded beyond RISC OS, I wrote equivalent keyboard layouts that allowed me to access the Maltese characters in the way I was used to, using the right-Alt combination. This page was eventually created to share these tools with the general public.

Windows

The Windows layouts were created using a free tool from Microsoft (the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator, that is no longer available from Microsoft). I started with a layout based on the US base layout. This was simply because most of my keyboards are US-layout. I got used to it while living in the US during my PhD studies, and by now I much prefer the US interface to the UK one. In time I also created an equivalent layout based on the UK keyboard, for friends and family (given that most computers bought in Malta will have that keyboard type).

Features of the published layouts, available further down, are:

  • The Maltese character set (ċĊġĠħĦżŻ), as well as the lesser-used vowel accents (àÀèÈìÌòÒùÙ) are accessible simply by pressing right-Alt (often marked as AltGr) in combination with the corresponding key. The addition of shift or caps-lock gives the corresponding capital version, as expected. Note that in the UK keyboard, the accented vowels replace the acute accents of the standard UK layout (I wonder how many people actually knew about these).
  • On the US base layout version, the pound (£) and euro (€) symbols can be accessed as AltGr+3 and AltGr-4 respectively. The former is on the same key as the UK layout (and # is the ‘pound’ character anyway) while the Euro is in its proper place.
  • A few typographical symbols that I use every so often have been added as follows:
    • The section (§) and paragraph (¶) as AltGr+s and AltGr+p.
    • Registered ® and Copyright © as AltGr+r and AltGr+R
    • Trademark ™ as AltGr+t
    • Numero № and Degree ° as AltGr+n and AltGr+0
    • Times × and Divide ÷ as AltGr+8 and AltGr+/
    • Half ½, Per-mille ‰, and Plus/Minus ± as AltGr+2, AltGr+5, and AltGr+=
    • Left ← and right arrow → as AltGr+, and AltGr+.
    • Dagger † and Double-dagger ‡ as AltGr+d and AltGr+D

You may download the installers below:

Linux

When we moved to the UK in 2007 I also switched my main operating system to Linux, choosing the Ubuntu distribution for various reasons, and have stuck with it since. I wrote patches to the xkeyboard configuration files to recreate the layout I was used to, and would apply these to the systems I worked with. A long time later, seeing the popularity of this page for Windows users, I figured it would make sense to submit these patches to the xkeyboard project, for everyone to use. These patches were merged into the project in 2019, which means that any recent Linux distribution (including Ubuntu from 20.04 LTS onwards) should already contain my keyboard layouts. You can simply choose these from the keyboard layouts page under Maltese, as US or UK layout with AltGr overrides. Changes from the base layout include:

  • The Maltese character set (ċĊġĠħĦżŻ), as well as the lesser-used vowel accents (àÀèÈìÌòÒùÙ) are accessible simply by pressing right-Alt (often marked as AltGr) in combination with the corresponding key. The addition of shift or caps-lock gives the corresponding capital version, as expected. Note that in the UK keyboard, the accented vowels replace the acute accents of the standard UK layout (I wonder how many people actually knew about these).
  • On the US base layout version, the pound (£) and euro (€) symbols can be accessed as AltGr+3 and AltGr-4 respectively. The former is on the same key as the UK layout (and # is the ‘pound’ character anyway) while the Euro is in its proper place.
  • On both layouts, pressing AltGr with any of the following symbol key combinations creates a dead-key that will apply the corresponding accent to the following character.
    • single quote / apostrophe (‘) – acute accent
    • double quote (“) – diaeresis
    • grave accent (`) – grave accent
    • tilde (~) – tilde accent
    • circumflex (^) – circumflex accent