Keyboard Layouts

Why do I need keyboard layouts?

First, we need to examine what are keyboard layouts? To begin, we'll talk about fonts and the actual keyboard attached to your computer. Those two have something in common - they both can be thought of as 2-dimensional tables, containing letters and symbols in each cell of the table. There is a connection between the keyboard and the font - when you hit a key, the keyboard sends the "address" of the key pressed to the computer, and it uses this "address" to read a corresponding letter from a font and display it on your screen. This is a simplified way of thinking about the relation between the keyboard and a font. Your Macintosh, or any other modern computer, has another level of complexity - you guessed it - the keyboard layout software. Its function is to provide flexibility in "mapping" of the keyboard keys to the letters in a font. When the user hits a key, the computer receives the "address" of the key pressed from the keyboard and passes it to the keyboard layout software. This software figures out what the corresponding letter in a font is (see the illustration), and then the computer uses that letter to display it on your screen.

The default keyboard layout your computer uses is called U.S. and it works with all the English fonts. Cyrillic fonts, however, are different because they contain both Cyrillic and Latin alphabets in them to accommodate the users who would like to mix and match both languages without having to change fonts. This is what necessitates the need for separate keyboard layouts when typing using Cyrillic fonts.

What kinds of keyboard layouts are there?

When looking for a keyboard layout, here are the things that must be considered:

Where do I get a keyboard layout?

There are several places on the Internet where you can obtain keyboard layouts. The table below represents a sampling to provide you with an idea of what's available. In the first row you will find a description of my own shareware keyboard layout set. Admittedly, I am biased here, but let me recommend that you consider it for your Cyrillic needs - a full description and instructions on downloading follow.

Keyboard Layouts Kind Encoding Standard 2 Alphabets Availability
by Matvey B. Palchuk
Phonetic ASC, KOI-8 Yes
go to...
by Apple Computer, Inc.
Typewriter ASC No go to...*
GF Cyrillic Caps
by George Fowler
Phonetic ASC Yes
go to...
by Daniel Chirkov
Typewriter KOI-8 Yes
go to...
Touch-type (blind)
by Alex Mordehai
Typewriter KOI-8, CP1251 Yes
go to...
by L. Jake Jacobson
Phonetic CP866 No download

* - the Russian script contains a keyboard layout
ASC - Apple Standard Cyrillic
CP866 - CodePage 866, MS-DOS (Alternative) Cyrillic encoding

Need help installing your keyboard layout? Consult this additional information page.

How do I use a keyboard layout?

If you followed Step 2 on installing Russian script, your computer should have its Keyboard menu enabled (see picture below). To type in Russian
  1. Choose a font you are going to use from a Font menu of your application
  2. Choose a corresponding keyboard layout from the Keyboard menu
  3. You're ready to go!

Important - the keyboard layout used when creating a file with a Cyrillic font plays no role in the appearance and or contents of this file. The only thing that matters is the font itself.

Now available for Mac OS X! Introducing:


"Student" Keyboard Layouts for
KOI8 and Apple Standard Cyrillic Fonts

Two keyboard layouts are designed for two different font standards, KOI8 and Apple Standard Cyrillic, and they will allow you to type in Russian regardless of what kind of font you are using. Furthermore, the layouts are identical, so you won't have to memorize two completely different schemes of character layouts. They are qwerty-like phonetically based, where Latin and Cyrillic letters of similar sound are assigned to the same keys. The layout is based in part on a standard "student" layout suggested by the Ad Hoc Committee on Standardization of Computer Keyboards for Cyrillic of the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL). The layout is illustrated below:

Scherr, Barry. "Final Report: Ad Hoc Committee on Standardization of Computer Keyboards for Cyrillic." SEEJ 29, no. 1 (1985): 84-95.

Shareware Notice

Copyright © 1995-2002 Matvey Palchuk

It is not customary to distribute keyboard layouts as shareware. I will try to explain my reasons for doing so in this case. I believe that the server "Russification of Macintosh" itself is of significantly greater value than the keyboard layouts. Initial construction and currently ongoing maintenance of the collection is fairly time-consuming. If you visit this site regularly, you will notice very timely updates. I am receiving a steadily growing amount of e-mail on the subject and I am sure that many of you also know that I try my best to assist with any questions you might have. Returning to the keyboards, "student" phonetic layouts are simply not very commonly available on the net, and the ones out there are not as intuitive as one would expect them to be. The layout in this package was designed with an investment of time and research to make sure the resulting product will be intuitive and very easy to learn and use. That is why I feel justified in releasing this software as shareware - you may consider it as both shared software and "server-ware!"

Shareware fee requested - $20, $25, or however much you feel you are able to contribute. Please, use PayPal by clicking the button above or send check or money order to

Matvey B. Palchuk
101 Wickham Way, #204
Norwood, MA 02062

Thank you for your support!

Download & Installation



Instructions for Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar and up

Updated 8/26/02
  • MacOS X 10.2 Jaguar substantially improved the handling of additional keyboard layouts. No command line interventions are necessary!
  • For more background information see Apple's Tech Note 2056.
  • Thanks to Gene Ushinsky of
  • To install:
    1. Download ruskbdx2.sit and unstuff (using StuffIt Light or StuffIt Expander).
    2. There should be three files with .rsrc extensions inside the resulting folder "ruskbdx2".
    3. Move these files into either /Library/Keyboard Layouts or ~/Library/Keyboards folder.
    4. Log out and log back in.
    5. Go to System Preferences -> International -> Input Menu tab and enable the new layouts (see illustration).

  • CapsLock toggles between Latin and Cyrillic layout:
    • CapsLock up -> Latin
    • CapsLock down -> Cyrillic
  • Shift key functions normally in both configurations, producing capital letters.
  • Option key accesses certain letters not present in regular layout.
  • This is a shareware product; pay the shareware fee and support the concept of shareware!

Instructions for Mac OS X 10 - 10.1.5

Updated 1/9/02
  • Adapted from Modifying the KCHR resources in OS X.
  • No guarantee whatsoever is given as to the quality of the instructions below, the provided software, the safety of your data, etc. (have to say this...)
  • Have Developer tools installed (Free registration at Apple Developer Connection and follow links for Developer Tools download)
  • Tested on MacOS X 10.1.0 and 10.1.2
  • You must be in Mac OS X. To install the keyboard layouts:
    1. download ruskbdx.sit and unstuff (using StuffIt Light or StuffIt Expander). Instructions below assume that you now have a folder on the desktop named "ruskbdx." Inside there should be following files:
      • AppleStd.r
      • KOI8russian.r
      • KOI8roman.r
    2. Launch Terminal. Follow the instructions below; items in bold are to be typed (exactly as they appear here) at the prompt.
    3. Make "ruskbdx" your current directory
      cd ~/Desktop/ruskbdx
    4. Copy "Localized.rsrc" file into this directory
      cp /System/Library/Frameworks/Carbon.framework/Frameworks/HIToolbox.framework/
      Resources/English.lproj/Localized.rsrc ~/Desktop/ruskbdx
    5. Create a backup copy called "Localized.old"
      cp Localized.rsrc Localized.old
    6. Extract resources into a datafork using Derez
      /Developer/Tools/Derez Localized.rsrc -useDF >> Localized.r
    7. Check KCHR ID numbers for conflict (you're not likely to find a conflict, but do check anyway). You need to make sure that there aren't any entries in the Localized.r file with the following IDs (see the number after parenthesis):
      • AppleStd.r: data 'KCHR' (19458, "?UOOI*fl - AppleStd", purgeable) {
      • KOI8russian.r: data 'KCHR' (19460, "?UOOI*fl - aeea8", purgeable) {
      • KOI8roman.r: data 'KCHR' (15460, "Russian - KOI8", purgeable) {
      Type the following in Terminal and you'll get a listing of IDs in Localized.r
      grep KCHR Localized.r
      If there's a problem, you can change the ID in one of the .r files you downloaded (don't change IDs in Localized.r). If you do, keep numbers close to originals; make sure to change kcs# and kcs4 IDs to match
    8. Combine all the ".r" files into new "Localized.rsrc" using Rez
      /Developer/Tools/Rez Localized.r KOI8russian.r KOI8roman.r AppleStd.r -o Localized.rsrc -useDF
    9. Now install the new file; you'll be prompted for your password (Obligatory warning: sudo is a dangerous command, be careful). This will replace the original file; you still have "Localized.old" as backup
      sudo cp ~/Desktop/ruskbdx/Localized.rsrc /System/Library/Frameworks/Carbon.framework/Frameworks/HIToolbox.framework/
    10. Log out (Apple menu -> Log Out...) and log back in
    11. System Preferences -> International -> Keyboard Menu tab and enable the new layouts
    12. May trash the "ruskbdx" folder. If you wish, keep "Localized.old" for backup purposes

  • CapsLock toggles between Latin and Cyrillic layout:
    • CapsLock up -> Latin
    • CapsLock down -> Cyrillic
  • Shift key functions normally in both configurations, producing capital letters.
  • Option key accesses certain letters not present in regular layout.
  • This is a shareware product; pay the shareware fee and support the concept of shareware!


Instructions for Systems 7, 8 and 9

Updated as of 1/17/96

Back to Step 2 | Step 3 | Go to step 4

Additional Information

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