Before my study abroad in Spain, I realized that I was going to be doing quite a bit of writing en español, and that this was going to require some new keyboard adjusting, since I didn’t feel like doing the alt-01249 key combinations to get characters like ñ € ó ç º ü ¡ ¿, etc, since they would be quite frequent.
This is great and simple, if you use a QWERTY-style keyboard. The problem for me is that I use the Dvorak simplified keyboard layout, and I have been since my Junior year of High School. Though I can type in QWERTY, I find it uncomfortable and slow. There exist several Spanish-Dvorak keyboard layout setup files for Windows, however they are all designed for the Spanish keyboard layout, not the US layout. This moves around some keys from where I am used to having them on my US-Dvorak layout, which again is uncomfortable. I already know two layouts, why should I force myself to learn a third? All I wanted was my US-Dvorak layout with the special accented characters and symbols. This shouldn’t be too hard.
Doing some long and tedious searching, I stumbled upon Colin at carfreeuniverse.org’s US-Dvorak with Spanish Chars implementation. This was a great starting point, but it still lacked some of the symbols that I wanted. I can’t remember what at this point, as it was a year ago when I first looked at his layout. I believe I needed most the €, º, and ç symbols, especially if I wanted to write some Català. So I modified his layout for my own purposes, and added characters as I found necessary.
Now, I’m trying to teach myself Português, and along comes a whole new set of letters that weren’t needed in Spanish – ã, õ, à, ô, â, ê, etc. So, nearly a year later, I open up the old Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator and start doing some edits, and add the characters I need. Finally, this is installed on my desktop, so I can send e-mails in Spanish and Portuguese to my friends without looking like a fool and causing vowel confusion.
The result is a keyboard layout that can be used as the default keyboard dvorak layout when typing in English. When special characters are needed, the ‘, ~, `, and ^ characters are all “dead keys” which are used to modify the following character. The layout thus will not get in my way for any of my everyday typing, and allows me to hold IM conversations and write Spanglish/Esportuguês with zero transition between languages. This may even cover French, but its probably not quite there yet. Maybe in version 3.0. The only thing I modified was swapping the shift state of the ~ and `, since ~ characters are used much more frequently. This may be confusing, because its opposite of the key printing on the keyboard itself. I may change it back if it gets confusing.
Here are some screen shots of the layout:
I figured I would post all my hard work for undoubtedly enormous population of US-dvorak-native tri+linguists out there. I can think of at least 2 other people who may find this useful that I actually know, that is, if they even use Windows. More importantly, I’ll be able to access this website and install the layouts from anywhere.
Feel free to comment on the layout. Perhaps I missed some characters or made a goof somewhere. I’d be happy to fix it, so long as I’m in agreement 🙂
2023 Update: This no longer seems to work with Windows 10 or Windows 11. However, Microsoft now seems to have various dvorak layouts for español and more in their language packs.