Custom Keyboard Layouts in Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Windows 8 Consumer Preview

So, a few days ago, I sporadically decided to install the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on my laptop. I just wanted to get a good look at what’s coming in the next version of Windows. Now, all commenting about Windows 8 aside, I had one pretty serious issue. You see, I’ve become incredibly reliant on the Programmer Dvorak Keyboard Layout. I switched layouts just over a year ago, but it’s put me in a relatively small group of people. While Windows includes three versions of Dvorak by default, Programmer Dvorak isn’t one of them.

I tried installing Programmer Dvorak on Windows 8, but it never showed up in the list of available layouts. While I’m sure this issue will be resolved when Windows 8 is officially released, I figured a decent number of people would like to use custom keyboard layouts. All it takes to get it working is a bit of registry hacking (which, admittedly, can be a bit risky).

First, install your layout. This will depend on your layout, but in the case of Programmer Dvorak, it’s a simple executable.

Next, in the Registry Editor (press the start button and enter regedit to access it, in case you didn’t know), find your layout. It’ll be under the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Control\Keyboard Layouts, and will likely be the last sub-key. Each keyboard layout has its own numeric key, and you’ll need to write it down for later. Alternatively, you can search the entire registry for the name of your desired keyboard layout. In my case, Programmer Dvorak’s code is 19360409.

Next, still in the Registry Editor, navigate to the key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Keyboard Layout\Preload. There, simply change value of the string that says 1 to match your layout’s code.

Keyboard Layout Code Preview

Finally, log out and back in, and you’re good to go!

4 Comments

  1. I’m running Windows 8 RTM and the issue is not resolved. Thankfully I came across your article. It is just what I was looking for and worked fine for me. Thanks a lot!

    • Excellent! I’m very glad that you found it to be useful. I just installed the RTM too, and was disappointed that they haven’t improved how they handle custom layouts. Hopefully they’ll do more to resolve the issue soon. In the meantime, I suppose messing with the registry always works.

  2. so I can’t find “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMControlSet001ControlKeyboard Layouts” and what do you mean sub key? I use a modified dvorak with spanish/french/greek symbols for school, but I don’t think I understand all of what you’re saying to do. do you think you could explain further? I’m not trying to sound like an idiot, but I haven’t found ANYWHERE else that answers this question. Thank you

  3. russt

    2012-11-12 at 5:21 pm

    Hey Nate,

    I’m sorry, it looks like my post had been modified and lost the slashes in that path.

    You’ll want to look under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Control\Keyboard Layouts for your layout. Since each one is just a number code, you’ll have to look through them to find the code for your custom layout. It’s probably the very last one in the list. (At least, that’s how it was for me.)

    Then, follow the rest of the steps to apply your layout.

    Hopefully, that’ll do the trick for you. If you’re still having trouble, just post again, and I’ll do what I can to help out.

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