Multilingual keyboards for laptops
By Charles Bell on Dec 16, 2008
Do you speak multiple languages or are you learning a new language? Do you wish your keyboard had more than one layout on the key caps? While a desktop keyboard can be replaced with another keyboard easily, it is not so easy to do on a laptop. Even if you were to find a multilingual keyboard for your laptop, it is unlikely you will find one with both (or all) of the language layouts you want.
If you're like me and are learning a new language that includes characters that are not in the English alphabet, you found that the alternate layout moved some keys around. Rather than have to carry around a template or cheat sheet, I decided to buy stickers to place on my key caps making it much easier to type in the new language.
I found the best stickers are those made from a durable material with strong adhesive that prevents the sticker from shifting or curling. Unfortunately, after a few hundred keystrokes even the 'better' key cap stickers become troublesome. The ones I used were thick and presented a ridge that would occasionally catch my fingernails (and I keep my nails short). While mildly annoying, the situation got worse so I attempted to remove them. Sadly, the adhesive required chemical assistance to remove completely -- very messy.
I still wanted to have both language layouts so I began searching for better stickers. I soon discovered I had one of the best rated sticker sets you can buy. A few pages down in my Google search I discovered a unique alternative to the stickers. International Keyboard Solutions (IKBS) http://www.ikbs-usa.com will laser etch your keyboard with any layout you want. In fact, you can have several languages on your keyboard at the same time. They offer a variety of fonts and colors and can etch almost any language.
Here's how it works: you send them your keyboard and select your language of choice and color, and they will etch and ink your keyboard with the alternate keyboard language. The process takes about a week depending on your choice of shipping methods. This option isn't cheap -- it is more than 10 times the cost of the 'better' stickers. However, it is worth the added cost to not have the sticker stickiness to deal with.
Rather than do without my laptop for a whole week, I purchased a surplus keyboard off the internet (you can find almost anything on eBay) and sent that one off to IKBS for etching. I was very pleased when the keyboard arrived from IKBS. The etching was perfect. You can feel the etching if you run your fingers over the keys but it isn't noticeable while typing and doesn’t catch my nails like the stickers. The blue ink shows up really well and doesn't clash with the black imprint of the original key caps. It’s really cool!
If you have ever wanted to add another language layout to your keyboard, give the nice folks at IKBS a call. They even do cell phones!