Instructions

Here's how to use Keyferret to enter different types of character.

General tips

Keyferret works by interpreting sequences of keys whilst pressing RAlt (the right Alt key, marked AltGr on most non-US keyboards). Depending upon the character you want, you might type a single key with RAlt, or a sequence of keys. The whole sequence needs to be typed without letting go of RAlt. If you need to enter to successive characters with the RAlt key, you might need to release RAlt and press it again to avoid ambiguity with longer RAlt sequences, although if there is no ambiguity then Keyferret will automatically start the new sequence.

You should get into the habit of using the left Alt key for regular keyboard shortcuts using Alt. Non-US keyboard users are normally used to this already.

The keys you can press are context sensitive based upon the most recent characters you have typed. The context is broken if you press any arrow keys, click the mouse, or do anything else which might move the cursor, because Keyferret works by remembering recently pressed keys, not by reading the text on the screen.

Context-sensitive help

Hold down RAlt for a second or so to get help on what you can currently type. While holding RAlt, press PgUp/PgDn to scroll through the display. Note that if NumLock is on, you can't use the PgUp/PgDn keys on the numeric keypad, because they function as number keys, but you can always use the stand-alone PgUp/PgDn keys. (Also be careful not to press the arrow keys while holding down RAlt – this is likely to turn your screen upside down or sideways due to Windows-defined mappings I can do nothing about. Press RAlt+<Up> to get back to normal if you do this accidentally.)

Several characters are combining characters, which means that they are added to the previous character rather than being characters in their own right. These are shown in the help with a dotted circle to represent the previous character. For example, the character “◌́” is a combining acute accent; type this after a character such as “a” and you get “á”.

If you want to enter something based on a character, type that character first and then hold RAlt to see what you can do with it. Otherwise just hold RAlt and press PgUp/PgDn to look for the character. This page describes how they're organised.

Note that to enter e.g. RAlt+%, you need to hold RAlt and Shift and press 5, because % is on top of the 5. RAlt+5 is a different thing.

In the help window, some colours apply:

  • Red indicates characters typed with RAlt pressed.
  • Blue indicates characters typed without RAlt pressed.
  • Green indicates characters that replace what you've already typed.
  • Purple indicates combining characters that are added to already typed characters.

Undo

You can undo a key you've just pressed with RAlt+<Backspace>. This enables you to browse through the tree of keystrokes until you find the one you want. It's worth getting used to holding down the RAlt key and typing keys and <Backspace> to see what characters are available.

Sometimes more than one character can be reached with the same RAlt sequence. When this happens, the alternatives can be selected with RAlt+<space>.

Certain characters require fonts that support them. In particular, if you're using the maths characters, you probably want Cambria Math. In order to display certain mediaeval scribal abbreviations, I recommend installing Junicode. Microsoft Office applications such as Word and Outlook in particular don't behave particularly well when confronted with characters that aren't supported in the currently selected font, and while Keyferret does its best to minimise the effects of this, it is best to select a font that supports the characters you are trying to type in the first place where possible.

Accents and diacritics (e.g. á)

First type the character you want to add the diacritic to. Then press RAlt plus the key for the diacritic you're after. You can add multiple diacritics if you want, if for example you are typing in Vietnamese.

The major diacritics are:

  • ' : Acute (á), or twice for double acute (ő)
  • ` : Grave (à), or twice for double grave (ȁ)
  • " : Diaeresis/Umlaut (ä)
  • % : Ring (the percent sign's got a ring in it) (å)
  • ^ : Circumflex (â)
  • & : Háček/Caron (it's next to the circumflex) (ǎ)
  • ( : Inverted breve (ȃ)
  • ) : Breve (ă)
  • _ : Macron (ā)
  • ~ : Tilde (ã)
  • . : Dot below (ạ), or twice for above (ȧ)
  • , : Cedilla (ç), or twice for comma below (ț)
  • ; : Ogonek (ą), or twice for hook above (ả)

More obscure diacritics, spacing versions of the above, and characters based on the above characters themselves can be reached by pressing other characters after the first while RAlt is still pressed. Hold RAlt and see the help for details. E.g.:

  • `_ gives a combining grave-macron (a᷅)
  • %b gives a ring below (ḁ)
  • "s gives a standalone diaresis character (¨)
  • (d gives a double-character tie, to be entered between two characters (a͡b)

Finally, some very obscure diacritics for e.g. IPA usage are available by press RAlt+7 and then following the options in the help window.

Modified letters (e.g. ø, ɓ)

There are various keys that will modify the most recent letter if pressed with RAlt. These can only access characters that have been defined in Unicode – so for example, you cannot enter a superscript letter q because Unicode hasn't defined that.

  • / : Stroke (ø)
    • Sometimes there is more than one type of stroke available, in which case pressing RAlt+/ again, or a different character while RAlt is still pressed, might be required. The help window will show you.
  • : : Hooks (ɓ) and other modifications
    • RAlt+: on its own gives a hook.
    • RAlt+: followed by other letters give other embellishments to the character. E.g. z, RAlt+:cʑ (z with curl).
  • { : Turned characters (ɐ)
    • Sometimes followed by r, i or s for reversed, inverted or sideways.
  • @ : Letters and numbers with circles round them (①)
  • + : Superscripts (¹, ᵃ)
    • Unicode has defined these characters for known uses where a superscript carries specific meaning – for example, /pʰ/ to represent an aspirated p in IPA. For other uses, it recommends that you format characters as superscript or subscript in your application instead. It's really convenient for simple mathematical usage such as x², but might not be as pretty as using native formatting such as x2.
    • RAlt+++ (two plus signs) accesses combining letters, placed above the preceding letter – useful in some medieval contexts.
  • \ : Subscripts (₁, ₐ), small capitals (ᴀ), and formatted letters (𝒂)
    • When RAlt+\ is applied to a lowercase letter it forms a subscript letter, and when applied to an uppercase letter it forms a small capital.
    • Formatted letters are provided for maths use – these shouldn't be used to format regular text, but in mathematical usage, formatting is highly significant to meaning.
    • The formatting sequences are RAlt+:
      • \b : bold (𝐀)
      • \i : italic (𝐴)
      • \c : script (𝒜)
      • \f : fractur (𝔄)
      • \d : double-strike (𝔸)
      • \s : sans-serif (𝖠) (Note that these characters assume the use of a serif font such as Cambria Math, making sans-serif look different)
      • \m : monospace (𝙰)
    • Combinations of formatting are often possible. E.g. RAlt+\bis for bold italic sans-serif (𝘼).

Many of the characters in this section can also be reached by holding RAlt when typing the base character as well. For example, while I would normally recommend reaching ø by typing o, then RAlt+/, you can also reach it with RAlt+o/. This makes it easier to find characters by holding down RAlt and following the options presented. It's usually more efficient however to only press RAlt after the base character – it's easier to type and avoid conflicts which you might need to press RAlt+<space> to distinguish (e.g. RAlt+z:ƺ, not ȥ).

Other letters and common symbols

Typing RAlt with letters gives you a range of characters. Most are common diacritic variants of Latin characters for faster typing (which can be reached in more memorable ways by adding the diacritic after the base letter is typed), and a few are common symbols:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
RAlt+a-z Á Ă © Ð É Ş Ü İ Í Ô Ö Ø Ñ Ó Ä ® § Þ Ú Ç Å ÷ Ȝ Æ
RAlt+A-Z á ă ¢ ð é ş ü ı í ô ö ø µ ñ ó ä ſ þ ú ç å × ȝ æ

Many other characters are possible by sequences of letters. E.g.:

  • RAlt+oe : oe ligature (œ)
  • RAlt+ss : German ss ligature (ß)
    • Fun fact: the origin of this character is in fact a ligature between the old “long s“ (ſ) and regular s character, which you briefly see when typing this.
  • RAlt+wy : Wynn (ƿ)
  • RAlt+c/o : ℅
  • RAlt+TM : ™
  • RAlt+con : Latin con abbreviation (ꝯ)
  • RAlt+CDD: Roman ten thousand (ↂ)
  • RAlt+rn : Insular r (ꞃ – the ‘n’ is for ‘iNsular’)

Several languages have adopted Greek letters into their alphabet, often following IPA symbols, and those are described in Unicode as Latin letters with separate code points. E.g. RAlt+gaɣ, RAlt+GAƔ (uppercase version). If you want Greek letters, use the separate Greek layout, or RAlt+5… (Greek characters), or RAlt+=… (maths).

Symbols and punctuation

Dashes

Press RAlt+- once for an en dash (), twice for an em dash (). En dash is by far the character I use the most in regular typing.

Quotes

Press RAlt plus the following once for a single quote, twice for a double quote:

  • 1 : or (low 9 or 99 quote)
  • 2 : or (high 6 or 66 quote)
  • 3 : ’ or (high 9 or 99 quote)
  • < : or «
  • > : or »

The first three can be very useful if you're typing somewhere without “smartquotes” (e.g. a browser) where you want nice quotes, or if “smartquotes” are not smart enough to guess what you're actually trying to do! Sometimes smartquotes can interfere with these so if you use these a lot you might want to disable them and learn to enter the quotes you want each time instead.

The single quote from RAlt+2 is also recommended by Unicode for use as a standalone apostrophe, and this is the character used by smartquotes when an apostrophe is assumed.

Bullets

RAlt+* gives , and pressing other letters with RAlt after this give various other bullets.

Upside down !/?

Press RAlt+! to get ¡, RAlt+? to get ¿,

The Euro symbol (€)

Is on RAlt+4. I originally wrote this for a UK keyboard and that's where it always lives on UK keyboards.  The pound sign (£) is also on this key for the easy access of people with US keyboards who don't have that key natively.

Arrows

Press RAlt plus the following once for a single arrow and twice for a double arrow:

  • 8 : or
  • 9 : or
  • 0 : or

As with other keys, following this with other keys while still holding RAlt gives access to many other types of arrow.

If you then press RAlt+Space, you can turn the arrow to face the direction you want. So → can become ↘︎, ↓, or ↙︎.

Fractions

For the common ones, type them whilst holding RAlt. For example. RAlt+1/2 gives ½.

There is a cunning character in Unicode called “fraction slash”, which is meant to construct a fraction out of any pair of numbers. This seems to be implemented in browsers but not in Microsoft Office applications so far. To access it, type a number, then RAlt+/, then another number. The RAlt key is only held for the /, not for entering the numbers.

Other symbols

Type RAlt+#, hold RAlt and press other keys as directed by the help. RAlt+# on its own gives a middle dot.

Currencies (e.g. ¥)

Press RAlt+$, and then while holding RAlt type one or more keys to describe the currency symbol, as described by the help window.

Mathematical symbols (e.g. π, ≠)

For most symbols, press a RAlt sequence starting with RAlt+=. RAlt+= on its own gives a mathematical minus (−).

There are several types of symbol that can be reached this way:

  • Greek and Hebrew letters (RAlt+=DΔ, for “Delta”; RAlt+=ah, for “Aleph Hebrew”)
  • Symbols (RAlt+=a, for “and”)
  • Modified letters (RAlt+=E; RAlt+=h)

Inequalities are on sequences starting RAlt+< and RAlt+>.

Brackets are on sequences starting RAlt+[ and RAlt+].

Some symbols can also be created using the diacritic keys:

  • RAlt+/ puts a stroke through the just-typed symbol if Unicode defines it:
    • =, RAlt+/
    • , RAlt+/.
  • RAlt+~ turns = and -.
  • RAlt+= adds “or equal to” to some symbols
    • <, RAlt+=
    • >, RAlt+=

Some common characters are on the main keys:

  • RAlt+p : (prime: press again to get double/triple/quadruple prime)
  • RAlt+r :
  • RAlt+x : ×
  • RAlt+X : ÷

Greek and Cyrillic

Greek and Cyrillic characters can be reached by sequences starting RAlt+5 and RAlt+6 respectively. Although if you want more than one or two characters you should consider switching layouts with CapsLock+g or CapsLock+c.

Special characters

A range of special characters can be entered by RAlt+Shift+<space> (RAlt+<⇧+sp>). On its own this gives a non-breaking space; followed by other characters with RAlt it gives various fixed-width whitespace and some special control characters if you understand how Unicode works and need them.

Entering characters by hex code

If you know the hex code of a character, you can enter it by typing a backslash, then the code, then RAlt+<space>.

Alternative layouts

Alternative layouts can be selected with the CapsLock key. See Alternative layouts for details.