I have recently got a new laptop, my trusty old ThinkPad R40e has cracks in the case and doesn’t always load. I’m not sure how old it is, but it is an IBM thinkpad and the brand switched to Lenovo in 2005. I have run Linux on my old laptop for a while, but have not yet successfully installed it on my new one yet. One of the best things about the Linux release was the Bolnagri keyboard layout. This puts most of the devanagari characters in on keys which have the same or a similar sound on the Latin QWERTY keyboard. For example, the “d” key gives द and the shift D key ध. Vowels are slightly more complicated, as you have to hold down the ALT-GTR key for the independent forms. For example typing “ki” gives कि and kI gives की , whereas AltGtr+i gives इ , and AltGtr+I ई. This makes it very easy to use for someone who is used to the QWERTY layout; to type “namaste” I type the keys “nmsxte”, giving नमस्ते. (the x key is the virama character, which suppresses vowel sound).
I have made a couple of tentative attempts to learn Hindi. Thinking that I would try some more, I started by producing a Bolnagri keyboard for Windows. Maybe this was just so that I could stay in my comfort zone. Anyway I am sharing it as free to use for any purpose, of course with no warranty. For many people this will be the quickest and easiest way to start typing devanagari.
The Advantages of Bolnagri
The oficial Hindi keyboard layout is InScript. This has a logical layout with vowel sounds towards the left of the keyboard. The Bolnagri layout follows the phonetics of the QUERTY keyboard. This means that someone with a QWERTY keyboard can use devanagari immediately, only occasionally refering to the layout images to find the more unusual characters.
As well as being able to use it quickly without much training, its quite possible to use the layout without keyboard stickers. In fact most keyboard stickers would need cutting to use with the bolnagri layout.
Should I use Bolnagri or InScript?
The Bolnagri layout will probably be good for you if:
- You have a QUERTY keyboard.
- You are already familiar with the QUERTY keyboard layout.
- You will do some typing in a language that uses the QWERTY layout and some in devanagari.
- You don’t do typing in other indic scripts(unless you want to set up a bolnagri layout for the script)
- You don’t need to be able to go up to an indic computer and use it witghout installing software.
The InScript keyboard layout will be best for you if:
- Your computer has an InScript keyboard.
- You never type in languages that use the QUERTY keyboard.
- You type in other indic scripts (computers will already have InScript layouts for these)
- You need to be able to go up to an indic computer and use it witghout installing software.
- You want to be able to type in the Devanagari script really fast and are willing to spend longer learning the layout.
Installing the keyboard driver
If you are running Linux you will already have a bolnagri keyboard setup, just select it as the keyboard. If you are running windows you can install the bolnagri setup as follows.
If you want to edit and customise the layout, download the file bolnagri_v0.1.klc from this location. This can be loaded into the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator, edited as needed and used to produce a new package.
If you want to just use the layout as-is download bolnagri_v0.1.zip by clicking “File->Download original”. Unzip the directory then run “setup.exe” from the unpacked folder. After running this you will be able to add the keyboard from the control panel. In windows 7 this is “Control Panel->Clock, Language, and Region->change keyboard and other input methods->change keyboard->Add.
The above screenshot shows the bolnagri keyboard added and moved to the highest position from Hindi. The default is still the UK QWERTY keyboard, but this can now be switched from the language bar.
If this is useful to you or you have any comments, please reply to this article.