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7 April, 2010

Fonts, Keyboards & Layouts – How to correctly type Maltese characters

UPDATE: Thomas Pace kindly pointed out this very helpful link which basically covers everything here, and includes steps for Apple’s OSX: http://www.kunsilltalmalti.gov.mt/filebank/documents/kompjuter.pdf

I’ve been asked many times how to enter Maltese characters on a computer – i.e. ċĊ, ġĠ, ħĦ and żŻ.
It turns out there’s a lot of misconceptions out there, and many people think that typing Maltese and other non-Latin characters requires a special keyboard and/or specially installed fonts. This is completely not true, and all users with a moderately modern computer are able to enter such characters by simply adding a selecting a different keyboard layout from their OS.

Below is a short explanation of the misconceptions, if you just want to see the steps for selecting a different keyboard layout, click here.

“Maltese Fonts” and why they’re such a bad idea

A few years ago, everyone thought these so-called “Maltese Fonts” were the solution to entering Maltese characters into your computer. These fonts are just copies of the usual fonts we all know (Arial, Times etc) but with certain characters redrawn, such that when you type a [ it is displayed as a ġ, } becomes Ħ and so on. Now if all you're doing is typing into a word processor and printing directly from the same computer, the solution seems to work.

But what happens if you want to send a Maltese document to someone who doesn't have these fonts installed? Well, they will still be able to open the document, but in place of the proper Maltese characters they would see different punctuation symbols. So the phrase Għażiż Ċali would become something like:

G]a\i\ `ali

People just accepted this, and would say to each other “you need to install the Maltese fonts in order to read the document”. But, it gets worse. What if you’re entering text somewhere which doesn’t allow you to change fonts? I you were filling in a form on  a web page or even writing an email, you would just forget the use of Maltese characters altogether.

To summarise, “Maltese Fonts” are a very short-sighted and inelegant solution. Thankfully, due to a little something called Unicode, all modern computers today will allow you to enter (and read) Maltese and other non-Latin characters, simply by changing your keyboard layout settings (see below).

“Maltese Keyboards” and why you don’t need one (but might still want one)

Another misconception I’ve heard is that in order to enter Maltese characters, you require special hardware — i.e. a “Maltese Keyboard”. This is not true, because all a Maltese keyboard really is is a standard US/UK keyboard with different symbols printed on the keys. Circuitry-wise, everything else is identical. In fact any keyboard can be used to enter any type of character, simply by changing your computer settings.

However, that being said, users may find that having a Maltese keyboard is helpful since they don’t need to remember that they need to press the [ button to produce a ġ and so on.

How to select the Maltese keyboard layout on your computer

The screenshots below are taken in Windows 7. Steps for Windows Vista and Windows XP are very similar, almost identical. Steps vary for Linux because of all the different distributions, for Mac OSX refer to the linked article above.

  1. Start → Control Panel
  2. "Change keyboards or other input methods"
  3. Click "Change Keyboards..."
  4. This shows all your installed keyboard layouts. Click Add.
  5. Choose one of the Maltese keyboard layouts:

    • If on your keyboard, the @ symbol is above the number 2, choose Maltese 47-key
    • Otherwise, if the " symbol is above the 2 key, choose Maltese 48-key
  6. You can also preview the keyboard layout:
  7. After clicking OK to everything, you should now notice a new icon in your taskbar next to the time, called the Language bar with this icon:

    Click on it to change the desired input language. After changing it to Maltese, try pressing these keys on your keyboard:

[ { ] } `¬ \ | # ~

You should now see our lovely Maltese characters on your screen :) (The last 4 will vary depending on whether you chose the 47 or 48-key layout).

Note that this setting is per-application. So, if you’re in Microsoft word and change it to Maltese, then switch to your email client, you will need to set the language again for that application. If you always want the Maltese keyboard layout to be the default active layout for all your applications, you can set it from the screen in point 4 above (under default input language).

26 Comments »

  1. There is this manual: http://www.kunsilltalmalti.gov.mt/filebank/documents/kompjuter.pdf

    It was published by the National Council for the Maltese Language, and covers Windows XP, Vista and 7.

    The Maltese fonts can be activated in Mac as well.

    Comment by Thomas Pace — 28 April, 2010 @ 10:28 pm

  2. Great link, thanks Thomas!

    Comment by John — 29 April, 2010 @ 8:17 am

  3. I came across this quite by accident.
    Well done John!

    Comment by joe camilleri — 23 November, 2010 @ 6:07 am

  4. Using the Maltese 48key keyboard has a problem with the decimal point on the numeric keyboard and the full stop on the main keyboard. Both are displayed as a comma. In Malta the decimal point is used and not the comma.

    Comment by Francis Cassar — 10 December, 2010 @ 9:39 pm

  5. Thanks J. I’ve been wondering how to do this for a while.

    Comment by Luke Frendo — 16 October, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

  6. Thank you so much! Prosit!

    Comment by Anne — 7 January, 2012 @ 11:58 pm

  7. Thanks for this – however I have a problem still – I have a white Macbook and seem to be missing a letter.
    I can get the following ~ for ż, [ for ġ, ] for ħ but I am missing the c and I have tried all the keys in conjunction with both shift and alt keys as well.
    Any help you can give would be really appreciated as I am learning the language and would like to submit my work correctly.
    Again thanks.

    Comment by Doreen Murray — 3 February, 2012 @ 7:31 am

  8. Hi Doreen,
    Other people seem to have encountered your issue: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/3548853?start=0&tstart=0

    Comment by John — 3 February, 2012 @ 10:22 am

  9. Hi John
    Thanks for the quick response – I have now had an opportunity to read that article you mention.
    It is a bit convoluted way to do it, but at least it works – thanks so much for this.
    I will let others in my class know about this if they are also having problems.
    Regards
    Doreen

    Comment by Doreen Murray — 6 February, 2012 @ 10:49 am

  10. Thanks for this link. Can someone please tell me if the grammar can be checked in Maltese please.

    Comment by suzette farrugia — 18 March, 2012 @ 11:06 pm

  11. Hi Suzette, no grammar checking in Maltese is not possible in any software program. There are very few digital resources for Maltese unfortunately…

    Comment by John — 18 March, 2012 @ 11:23 pm

  12. Hi John, thanks for your reply. Yes its so unfortunate hope they update some programs in the future. Thanks a million

    Comment by suzette farrugia — 19 March, 2012 @ 12:20 am

  13. Hi, jista’ xi hadd jghidli please kif taghmel is-sinjal ghal fuq, naghmlu mod l-a ta’ responsabbilita? Thanks hafna!

    Comment by JJ — 22 February, 2013 @ 3:37 pm

  14. Josianne, bil-keyboard Malti tista’ ddaħħal l-ittri à,ì,è,ù,ò billi tagħfas Alt Gr u l-vokali li trid. Ħadmitlek?

    Comment by John — 22 February, 2013 @ 3:41 pm

  15. Can you do one of windows 8 please ?

    Comment by Alexia Azzopardi — 4 March, 2013 @ 8:12 pm

  16. Hi Alexia,
    I don’t have access to Windows 8 but this link should help you: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/change-keyboard-layout

    Comment by John — 5 March, 2013 @ 10:17 am

  17. Hi John,

    Thanks for this. It works well for all programs except one. I am trying to use the Maltese Interactive Picture Dictionary and there doesn’t seem to be a way to show the Maltese characters correctly. Have you come across this program? Do you know if there’s a way to fix this?

    Thanks again.
    Tony.

    Comment by Tony Farrugia — 2 May, 2013 @ 7:01 am

  18. Hi Tony,
    No I have never come across this program before. It seems it was written in 1997 which is quite old and probably does not use standard Unicode for displaying Maltese characters.
    You could try contacting the publishers at http://www.proteatextware.com/ although I am doubtful whether they even support this product anymore.

    Comment by John — 2 May, 2013 @ 8:32 am

  19. This was really helpful.Thank you.

    Comment by Louise Sultana — 23 June, 2013 @ 11:21 am

  20. Qed nikteb dokument u kull meta ndaħħal ittra bil-malti qed jinbidel il-font għal dik l-ittra (qed tiġi Arial u b’font akbar). Tafu x’nista’ nagħmel jekk jogħgobkom? Din l-ewwel darba li qed tiġrili. Grazzi

    Comment by Christabel Mallia — 15 August, 2013 @ 7:53 pm

  21. Hi Christabel,
    Bażikament jiġri hekk għax il-font li qed tuża m’għandux fih il-karattri Maltin. Trid tbiddel il-font għal wieħed differenti.

    Comment by John — 15 August, 2013 @ 8:14 pm

  22. Hekk hu. Wara rrealizzajt x’tista’ tkun il-problema u infatti kienet kif għidtli int. Grazzi ħafna.

    Comment by Christabel Mallia — 16 August, 2013 @ 3:05 pm

  23. I have a document in Maltese, but unfortunately all Maltese fonts are missing showing the regular key format instead. Is there a way how to correct it instead of going over it word by word? Thanks in advance.

    Comment by Tony Scerri — 11 February, 2014 @ 11:02 am

  24. Hi Tony, you can use the “search and replace” feature. See this link for more information.

    Comment by John — 11 February, 2014 @ 11:05 am

  25. Great! Helped a real lot!!! THANKS!

    Comment by Adin Vella — 28 March, 2014 @ 6:30 pm

  26. Vera prosit hiii

    Comment by yolii — 12 April, 2014 @ 6:18 pm

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