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How to install a custom keyboard layout on Windows 10

Windows 10 has a long list of keyboard layouts that a user can add to their system. These layouts cater to multiple languages including Mandarin and Arabic, and they are available for all types of keyboards.

Installing a keyboard layout on Windows 10 is easy; all you have to do is select one from a list and it will be added. Users can switch between keyboard layouts on the fly with a keyboard shortcut (Ctrl+Shift).

Note that Windows 10 keyboard layouts are all preset and they cannot be edited. In order to get a custom keyboard layout, you either have to download it or create one yourself.

Create a custom keyboard layout

Creating a keyboard layout is easy but time-consuming since every single key has to be mapped and assigned individually. Try to find a ready-made keyboard layout if you can. If a ready-made keyboard layout isn’t available, you’ll have to make the layout yourself.

See our video tutorial on how create a custom keyboard layout on Windows 10 or follow the step-by-step guide below:

Video Tutorial

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Download the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator.

  2. Open the app and notice the blank visual keyboard.

    You’ll get a basic keyboard layout without a dedicated numpad. The keys are color coded. All white keys can be assigned whereas the dark grey ones cannot. The dark grey keys represent keys like Tab, Shift, Caps, etc.

  3. Tap a key on the visual keyboard and select the character / key you want to assign to it, one-by-one.
    Click inside an assignable key, and in the box that opens, enter what key/character you want to enter when that particular key is pressed. This will enter the default character for that key. If you want to record the shift state character for a key, click the All button on this same box.

    Recording a Shift key is just as easy as recording the default state key but it isn’t compulsory. You can skip it if you want. You can also couple keys with Ctrl and Alt keys.

  4. Map the entire keyboard.

  5. Go to Project>Build DLL and Setup Package.
    When you’re done, go to Project>Build DLL and Setup Package. You’ll see a prompt asking if you want to check the properties of the keyboard layout you’re creating and you definitely should. That’s where you can give the keyboard layout a proper name and description.

    It will create an MSI file and an EXE, either one of which you can run to install your custom keyboard layout. I created a basic one that types in all Caps and named it angry. Once installed, it allowed me to type in all Caps without holding down the Shift key. For more complicated keyboard layouts, it’s going to take more time to create but the tool is still just as easy to use!

  6. Save the layout.

Install custom keyboard layout

A keyboard layout, whether it’s custom made with the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator or if you’ve downloaded it yourself, is going to be an executable file or an installer file. Installing it is as easy as installing any app.

  1. Open File Explorer and navigate to the EXE or MSI file for the keyboard layout.
  2. Run the file.
  3. Grant the app admin permission to install (The keyboard is installed for the current language).

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Go to Time & Language.
  3. Select the Language tab.
  4. Select the current language.
  5. Click the keyboard button under it.
  6. The current and new keyboard layout will be listed. Remove the one you do not want to use.

Conclusion

Keyboard layouts for commonly spoken languages like English are more common. If you need to type in a language that doesn’t have many layouts available, or you need to set the keys up in a layout that you can’t find in any configuration, a custom layout is the best alternative. 

It’s worth mentioning that if you only need to change one or two keys, you can do with remapping them instead of creating a custom layout. Remapping tools like AutoHotKey and PowerToys are good options. If you remove the layout at any point, you can still use the MSI or the EXE file for it to install it again.

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