The Lumber Room

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A better keyboard layout for typing IAST on Mac OS X (based on EasyUnicode)

with 13 comments

To type IAST (English letters with diacritics, for Sanskrit transliteration) on Mac OS X, perhaps the easiest way, rather than to use transliteration tools, is to get a keyboard layout that does it. Just to be clear, this is the alphabet we want:

a ā i ī u ū ṛ ṝ ḷ ḹ e ai o au ṃ ḥ
k kh g gh ṅ
c ch j j ñ
ṭ ṭh ḍ ḍh ṇ
t t d dh n
p ph b bh m
y r l v ś ṣ s h

In other words, the special characters needed are:

  • Letters with macron above: ā ī ū ṝ ḹ plus it may be occasionally useful to have ē and ō as well
  • Letters with dot below: ṭ ḍ ṇ ṣ (the retroflex consonants), also the vowels ṛ ṝ ḷ ḹ, plus ṃ and ḥ (anusvāra)
  • Letters with other marks above: ṅ ñ ś

There is a keyboard layout that does this: It’s called “EasyUnicode”, created by Toshiya Unebe (Nagoya University), and is documented at (“EasyUnicode version 5” it says) (PDF version), and you can download it from (EBMP) (=Early Buddhist Manuscripts Project, University of Washington) or also “Pali Fonts for PC and Unicode”. (Page in Japanese.)

This keyboard layout is just like the usual (US English) layout ordinarily, but when you hold down the Alt (Option) key and press a, you get ā, similarly Option+s gives ś, Option+n gives ñ and Option+g gives ṅ, etc. The full mapping is available along with other documentation in the download above.

This is very convenient. One issue with the layout is that also overrides a lot of keys for no apparent reason (Ctrl-A / Ctrl-E etc. stopped working for me), so I got Ukelele from SIL, and wrote my own keyboard layout. I’ve called it EasyIAST, and it is available here for now. I plan to add a README etc. and distribute it in some proper way later; for now you can use the instructions from EasyUnicode above. (Short version: Copy the file into ~/Library/Keyboard\ Layouts) If you find it useful and/or make any improvements, please let me know as well.

If some time is available, it would be good to make a Devanagari keyboard layout along the same lines.


Written by S

Tue, 2013-01-22 at 11:28:55

Posted in sanskrit

Tagged with , ,

13 Responses

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  1. Thanks for sharing this information. I was looking for layout information which is easier to get used to for long time.


    Thu, 2013-03-07 at 15:25:57

    • Glad to have helped. If you try out either EasyUnicode or my EasyIAST above, and have any reactions, I’d be interested in knowing them. Regards,


      Thu, 2013-03-07 at 22:52:56

  2. […] now have three input methods: US, EasyIAST (see earlier post), and MacUIM […]

  3. Hi, I downloaded ukelele to see if I can create a keyboard font for siddhanta/chandas to be able to type vedic easily on the mac. Chandas has an inscript keyboard for windows and is one of the few fontsets that have a comprehensive list of symbols for vedic including some of the characters required for SYV. Just wanted to know how difficult/long it would take to create a keyboard layout and if you have any steps that document the process of using ukelele.


    Tue, 2014-07-08 at 20:36:02

    • Hi Vidya,

      The keyboard layout inserts characters, which will get displayed in whatever font is available on your system. So it’s only a function of the (Unicode) characters in Vedic… Good luck and tell me how it goes.


      Tue, 2014-07-08 at 21:45:33

    • On re-reading this comment, it seems I may have misunderstood.

      To answer the last sentence: it doesn’t take very long to create a keyboard layout, probably about 15 minutes or so. Using Ukelele was mostly straightforward as I remember it, but if I ever use it again I’ll be sure to document the steps I took, and post here.



      Tue, 2014-11-11 at 01:51:23

  4. Where is EasyIAST available now? The link your post isn’t working anymore.


    Sat, 2018-06-30 at 04:30:18

    • I just checked and the link still works. Are you sure you’re downloading the file, and not viewing it in your browser?


      Mon, 2018-10-22 at 01:38:15

  5. Greetings Shreevatsa – I’m interested to try this out, but the link you posted above appears to be broken.


    chris sprague

    Tue, 2018-09-25 at 20:34:13

    • Sorry, forgot to reply earlier. I just checked and the link still works. Are you sure you’re downloading the file, and not viewing it in your browser? At the commandline you could type something like

      curl -O

      to download the file into the current directory. Perhaps it will be easier if I wrap it inside a zip file, so that no one tries to view it in their browser (and sees an XML error or whatever) — will do that sometime, but it should still work for now.


      Mon, 2018-10-22 at 01:41:30

  6. The link you gave returns error. I wonder if you could check and re-post the link. Thanks for your help

    Madhab Mathema

    Sun, 2018-12-09 at 03:03:32

    • The link works actually. See the comment immediately above yours.


      Wed, 2018-12-12 at 19:14:41

  7. Thanks a lot Shree. Have downloaded the file; how do I use it though?

    Aviram Vijh

    Wed, 2018-12-12 at 23:03:47

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