Keyboard Support

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Step 3: Organizing the Keyboard Files

Use ASCII characters for keyboard base names

Each keyboard in the repository is stored in a folder with the same name as the base name of the keyboard. The base name of the keyboard can only contain these characters:

  • letters [a-z] (lower case)
  • digits [0-9]
  • underscore [_] (no hyphens - which are reserved).

This restriction removes a lot of complexities with dealing with legacy and cross-platform systems and integrating with the web tools, which use the base name of the keyboard as a Javascript symbol.

While you may see some existing keyboards which are not named according to this convention, new keyboards must follow the ASCII naming convention. This applies to the filename of the keyboard; the descriptive name (store(&name)) is a Unicode string, and therefore can contain any Unicode character.

The keyboard name is used as a key for automatic updates on all platforms. Do not include the version of the keyboard in the filename, unless you want to make a new version a completely separate deployment because it has changed so substantially that users would not want to update to it automatically. In this situation, a new keyboard name is probably a wiser choice.

The keyboard name must also be unique in the repository. For less widely used languages, you may be able to get away with the name of the language, but for languages with a large number of speakers, there will probably be more than one keyboard layout, and you will need to be a bit more creative – “tamil” is not going to be a good keyboard name.

Use one keyboard per folder

In your keyboards-starter folder on your hard drive, make folders for each keyboard you create. In addition to our first sample keyboard name sample1, I'll list an additional sample keyboard mysample2 to illustrate how additional keyboards would be made. Using Explorer, we create the folder structures:


Each of your keyboards needs a "release" folder which matches the layout of the full keyboards repo. When the time comes to submit a keyboard, we create a Pull Request where we upload the entire "release" folder (1 per pull request), where it will get merged according to the first letter in the keyboard base name. Continuing with our sample keyboard names, we create the additional subfolders:


Down in these folders, we will create our keyboard source files.

Use a regular folder structure

The folder structure for each keyboard has the following components:

not stored in the repository; output files will go here
other related files, e.g. Word documents, databases, experimental files
keyboard source files, including any files that will be packaged in the build
php help file which is uploaded to
welcome.htm and any resources referenced from the welcome.htm file
development documentation for the keyboard
the Keyman Developer project file for the keyboard
The .kpj project file will contain references to the keyboard .kmn and .kps file and must set the output path to $PROJECTPATH\build. Do not include the .kpj.user file in the repository. The file should have the same base name as the folder/keyboard.
description of the keyboard, target languages, target devices, author, etc.
details on major changes to the keyboards (repository commits covers detail)
the open source license for the keyboard. This file should include a copyright message, including a date or range of dates encompassing the timeframe in which the keyboard was first created until the most recent version, e.g. Copyright (C) 2016-2021 K Author. You may choose to add copyright messages to other files, but if you do, you may wish to omit the date range in order to reduce unnecessary maintenance work when changes to the keyboard are required.
a metadata file detailing the keyboard's origin, version, requirements, and capabilities
This file greatly assists the process of making your keyboard readily available for public download. Please see the .keyboard_info section for more details.

Copy Template Files

The keyboards-starter repo contains a set of .md and .keyboard_info files you can copy and fill with details relevant to your keyboard. They're available at the template/release/t/template/ folder. Remember to rename template.keyboard_info with your keyboard name. The .md files use Markdown, an easy-to-read plain text format that can be converted to HTML.

Include these files

The following files should be included for your keyboard in the source folder. Some keyboards may have additional source files:

The keyboard source file.
The desktop on screen keyboard source (XML) file (if it exists).
<keyboard>.ico (or .bmp)
The keyboard icon.
<keyboard>.keyman-touch-layout or <keyboard>-layout.js
The touch keyboard definition.
The package source file. See the Keyman Developer reference for what to include within the package source file, but remember that when you reference any built files within the package, make sure you reference them from your build folder.
Font and documentation files
Any files you reference in the package source .kps file, such as fonts, documentation, should be included in the source folder.

Do not include these files

The following files should not be included because they are generated at build time:

The compiled keyboard file for Desktop.
The compiled keyboard package file.
The compiled (binary) on screen keyboard.
The compiled keyboard file for web and touch platforms.

Now that you know how to organize the keyboard files, let's learn some principles for contributing keyboards.

Step 4: Principles for Contributing Keyboards