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Thai Keyboard Layouts

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Thai Keyboard Layouts are generally something Thai speakers and Thai language learners have little problem with because of a de facto standard, although there are three specific standards, in practice (along with ISO and ANSI layouts). Though simple and straightforward, the English Wikipedia regarding Thai keyboard layouts gets things wrong, as is usually the case. The images are incomplete, or mislabeled, or missing relevant information. Wikipedia has been descending into a pit of ignorance for some time now.

ANSI Kedmanee as Standard and Predominant

When dealing with Thai Keyboard Layouts there are a few considerations. In general, this is mostly a non-issue since there is a predominant layout generally available, including in keyboard sticker format: The Kedmanee which was turned into a Thai Technical Standard (TIS 820-2531). ANSI is also the predominant physical keyboard layout (more on ANSI vs. ISO below).

1995 Update to Thai Keyboard Standard - TIS 820-2538

There is a 1995 update to the Thai standard TIS 820-2538, which adds support for Anghankhu (๚), Fongman (๏), Khomut (๛), and Yamakkan (อ๎), which are otherwise missing. These are Pali and literary characters not well known or in use outside of those niches. Note also that the Baht sign (฿) changes its location in the TIS 820-2538 update, and Anghankhu (๚) requires AltGr to access. As well, the percent (%), underscore (_), and plus (+) signs are removed from the Thai keyboard (though the plus sign is available on the separate number pad on 101/102/104/105 keyboards).

While this may be of interest to those (few) regularly typing Pali and Literary characters, for physical keyboards this layout standard is virtually impossible to find, though the software to support it is available in most operating systems (excluding, currently, ChromeOS).

Apple Keyboards and Missing Thai Characters

The ambiguity of which standard is in use as a keyboard map option was present in Apple keyboards for a number of years, in terms of there being a lack of characters on the keys where there were changes made between the standard versions. That is, instead of printing one or both character that would be represented, Apple decided to leave those keyboard character locations blank.

ISO vs. ANSI Keyboard Layout for Thai

While it is very difficult to find any examples of ISO keyboards with Thai language support, for those used to an ISO keyboard layout, that option should be simple to use/adapt as for Thai the extra ISO key has the extinct ฃ and ฅ keys, and the US English keys are backslash (\) and pipe (|). Unfortunately for programmers, those keys are rather important, and for the average typist, a smaller left shift key, and narrower enter key on the home row does impose some ergonomic penalty.

Note that there are a few examples of ISO layout for Thai when looking for laptop keyboard covers. Note the same missing characters as found on earlier Apple keyboards, in terms of support (through lack of contradiction) for both the TIS 820-2531 and TIS 820-2538 standards.

Pattachote Thai Keyboard Layout

Pattachote or PattaChote is one option for keyboard layout that is generally discussed but essentially irrelevant. While the keyboard layout is available in most operating systems, it is virtually invisible in terms of actual physical keyboard availability. If one would ever be included to try out Pattachote, then it would be necessary to design and print one's own keycaps.

Just as with Dvorak vs. QWERTY, it is impossible to find actual empirical studies which show evidence of the superiority of typing speed and error rate improvements when comparing Kedmanee and Pattachote. Theoretically there is more equal use of fingers and less heavy reliance on the right pinky finger than with Kedmanee. Of course those who find Kedmanee tiring or painful might indeed benefit from a change of layout.

Predominance of ANSI and Kedmanee

For simplicity's sake and for maximum compatibility in Thailand (compatible with the vast majority of keyboards available and in use, as well as keyboard sticker sets), the choice should be a 101/104 key ANSI keyboard using the US English and Thai (aka TIS 820-2531) layouts. The 101/104 keyboard has a separate keypad which makes accessing the Roman numbers directly (much easier than switching languages).

Support for European Languages and Thai

If one is designing a dual-keyboard layout, for support of most European languages (using non-ASCII characters), it is possible to use the English (US, international AltGr Unicode combining) keyboard option. This enables the AltGr (right alt key) to act as an option to access more characters. The disadvantage is that it does not map naturally to any european keyboard layout, so for touch-typing it needs to be learned just as any keyboard layout. For those who must regularly type in two or more European languages which a single keyboard layout cannot support, this is a compromise layout option.

Note: it could be worse:

Problem with Dual Language Mechanical Keyboards with Thai

There is a significant problem if someone wants Thai + English mechanical keyboards in Thailand (those with Cherry MX keys or similar). These keyboards are either designed with a backlight, and the dual language keycaps are either side printed with Thai (where light does not shine), or the light shines only through the English script on the keys, or both English and Thai do not allow illumination. For those non-illuminated keyboards, the same problem is present: the Thai script is too small and faint to read in all but the brightest lights. The author has ordered and returned three different keyboards (including two Ducky keyboards) and toured the keyboard offerings at several malls in Chiang Mai looking for something that would be acceptable, without any luck.

The only option is to design and print ones' own custom keycaps. Given the discussion above in terms of seeking an ANSI 104-key custom mechanical keyboard, WASD keyboards seems an obvious choice.

Additional Resources

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Gau Gai กอ ไก่ – Second Edition

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There are both substantive and subtle changes to the Thai Alphabet Cards. For the Thai Consonants, we add the ten numbers (0-9) as ten additional cards, and then on the consonant cards themselves, the significant changes are:

  • Multiple English Transliteration / Transcription (Haas/AUA, IPA, Paiboon)
  • Multiple font (typeface) variations (JS Thanaporn, JS Sirium, Purisa, JS Chanok, JS Chawlewhieng)
  • Improvements to the tone graph, and
  • Indicating the tone rule for the class inside the image for the consonant (an attempt at a visual mnemonic for tone class rules/tone class membership)

What has not changed (and remain from the original edition) includes:

  • The Sammy Diagram for the manner and place of articulation of the consonant sound;
  • The Thai consonant name;
  • The writing order and direction;
  • An indicator of a dead or live consonant (triangle or circle);
  • Inside the dead/live indicator, the sound for the consonant when it is in final consonant position;
  • An indicator of the tone rules for the class (mid-tone for long vowels, low-tone for short vowels);
  • The name of the class to which it belongs; and
  • The number of the card (in the deck order)

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Fonts with Thai & Roman (Latin)

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One challenge for using Thai script on a computer is that Thai characters are more vertical than roman alphabet characters. If one is mixing roman and Thai characters in a document, the Thai characters tend to be much smaller (and therefore illegible if the roman characters are optimized for space and legibility). The reason for this is that Thai characters, along with vowel markers, tone marks, and the silent marker can stack above and below a character, which means they are generally much taller than Roman (Latin) and other alphabet systems.

A good (bad) example is the very legible source code editing font Hack which does not have Thai character support. This means the operating system substitutes the Thai system font, which makes reading difficult. The best that can be done is increasing the font size and decreasing the line height and the line length. This can make the latin characters less legible.

Fonts with Good Thai and Roman Character Support

When this post was first created in Nov. 2013 there were three fonts that I focused on. Those fonts listed were:

  • Linux Libertine
  • TH Charmonman
  • TH Fah kwang

Since then we've gone on to create a large collection of open source and free Thai fonts, so there are more to choose from, as well as a few more added from additional sources (all open source or at least free to use).

Good support for English and Thai

  • Arundina Sans an original SIPA project which has been extended by TLWG
  • Garuda part of the NECTEC/TLWG release
  • Linux Libertine from the Libertine Open Fonts Project
  • Noto Sans Thai a Google Font
  • Mitr by Cadson Demak (Available on Google Fonts)
  • Prompt by Cadson Demak (Available on Google Fonts)
  • Waree, aka Thai Waree, another TLWG font
  • Itim a Cadson Demak font
  • Sawasdee a Cadson Demak font
  • Sriracha a Cadson Demak font
  • TH Charmonman a DIP/SIPA Govt font
  • TH Fah kwang a DIP/SIPA Govt font

Note that all the fonts listed above with the exceptions of Linux Libertine, Arundina Sans, and Waree are available in the Free Thai font collection. We will be adding Arundina and Waree to the Thai Font Collection in the next month or two.

A Note on Linux Libertine

Linux Libertine continues to amaze as a one of the most successful open source truetype font projects has excellent Thai character support. Actually, Linux Libertine has zero Thai character support, but the default Thai font substitution works well with Linux Libertine.

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Understanding Thai Transcription

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INCOMPLETE - WORK IN PROGRESS It is common for those learning Thai to run across transcription of spoken Thai into systems other than the Thai script. At first, one would think that there would be a single correct transcription, for example based on the International Phonetical Association (IPA) that would accurately capture all the sounds in Thai. One would be wrong. There are a large number of transcription/transliteration systems, each with their own history and rationale. Understanding more about them is useful to Intermediate Thai language learners. Normally a beginning learner is simply at the mercy of whatever Thai language books/material and/or Thai teacher/tutor is most convenient or chosen for the learner. As for the author of this essay, I held a bias against the IPA system as I wondered why I had to learn a third system in order to learn the second system (Thai). It turns out I was incorrect and it would have been better to learn not only the phonemes and phonology of Thai, but also that of English. A better understanding of both is the key to cutting through the confusion of Thai transcription systems that proliferate. Topics to follow: - Transcription system goals - Script-to-script - Sound-to-script - Reversibility - Sound-to-sound - ASCII/En keyboard transcription - Transcription systems - True (full) IPA - Hybrid systems - AUA -

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Thai Languages

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Thai languages, or languages in Thailand, are many and diverse. Scholars generally use the term Tai to refer to a larger language family which ranges across much of Mainland Southeast Asia and what is now Southern China. The main point is that there is ongoing research, different ideas, and not full agreement, on how to distinguish which languages are related to each other and which are siblings and which are parent languages.

Languages vs. Dialects

There is not a clear distinction where a dialect ends and a language begins. Presumably dialects are regional pronunciations and special local terms, whereas languages have much more of a difference which can result in mutual unintelligibility (the speaker of one language cannot understand the speaker of another language). Speakers of a language can grow apart, and their language then grows apart, resulting in two or more languages. Languages can also come together over time, such that a separate language starts to become mutually intelligible, where before it was not. And finally, many societies have multiple languages in use, and so intelligibility comes from close physical proximity of the languages and the speakers in the local area. What usually happens in this case is that one language which is not a local language, and not the mother tongue of a majority of the inhabitants, is priviledged as a language of education or the economy.

Thai Language, Tai Languges, &c.

In Thailand as functional mother tongues there are dozens and possibly hundreds of linguistic communities. Setting aside the many minority languages for example of immigrants and hill tribes, there are five predominant languages which number in the million or more speakers, those are: - Kham Muang / Lanna / Northern Thai - spoken in parts of Northern Thailand, Western Laos and Northeastern Myanmar - Isan / Lao / Northeastern Thai - there are six (or more) dialects of Lao and each of them is spoken in Isan, hence the Isan language is simply the Lao language, spoken in Northeastern Thailand - Standard Thai / Central Thai / Siamese / Thai - Southern / Dambro / Southern Thai - Phasa Dai ภาษาใต้ - Yawi / Pattani Malay - Phasa Yawi ภาษายาวี - Northern Khmer / Surin Khmer - Phasa Khmer ภาษาเขมร This rough diagram of the various spheres of influence of various kingdoms from ~1400 CE indicates how the linguistic cultures were set by then. The borders of those kingdoms are still very much present in the mother tongue of the populations in different parts of Thailand.

How to Understand the Relations between Thai Languages

There are different ways of relating these languages to each other, but present scholarship is best understood as making the modern languages siblings at most, and unrelated languages most likely. It is common to hear each of these languages (with the exception of Malay) as being Thai, Thai Languages or Dialects of the Thai Language. Certainly they are languages spoken in Thailand, and have been for generations. However, it is not accurate or useful to refer to these languages a part of a single language. Beyond the fact that these are generally mutually unintelligible, they also have very different histories and play a different function in the societies in which they live. Each is a mother tongue for a significant population, whereas Central Thai / Siamese is the national/government language. All languages except for Central Thai have been largely supressed as part of a nationalist Thaification policy which began in the 1940s and is operating up through the present.

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Free Thai Font Collection

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Please see the Thai Font Poster which makes use of the Free Thai Font Collection

108 Free and Open Source Thai Fonts

The main goal of this repository is to provide -- in one place a set of freely (and legally) available Thai computer fonts. The collection of fonts show the diversity of Thai typefaces. While there are many different websites with fonts for download, some fonts are difficult to find, and many sites also have proprietary fonts which are not free, and their use violates intellectual property laws. In addition, information about additional free-to-use fonts not hosted here is included, as well as information about standard proprietary Thai fonts, specifically those Thai fonts that come with Apple OSX and Microsoft Windows. Note: we will be adding Arundina and Waree which are both TLWG Fonts (SIPA and NECTEC, respectively) but were not included. They have been a part of Linux distribution support for Thai fonts for many years.

Contents of the Thai Font Collection

The Lanna Innovation Thai Font Collection currently includes over 300 font files in 108 font families. Not all font families include multiple variants, but many do. Font files are in TTF or OTF file format. We intend to update all open source and pubic domain font files to OTF which has greater compatibility with modern applications. 14 of the font families (46 individual font styles) are Webfonts available on Google Fonts, which makes using them on websites quite easy. - More about the Free and Open Source Thai fonts with download links. The licenses on these fonts allow us to distribute them.

Additional, Free-to-use Thai fonts

Information about 30 Additional, Free-to-use Thai fonts that can be downloaded from other websites. This is a curated collection of interesting and diverse fonts from a number of font creators and foundries.

Apple OSX and Microsoft Windows Thai Fonts

We also include information about the non-free, proprietary Apple OSX Thai Fonts and Microsoft Windows Thai Fonts

Display Samples of Selected Characters in the Thai Font Collection

Additional, Free-to-use Thai fonts

Information about Additional, Free-to-use Thai fonts that can be downloaded from other websites. This is a curated collection of interesting and diverse fonts from a number of font creators and foundries.

Samples of Additional Free Thai Font Families

Apple OSX and Microsoft Windows Thai Fonts

We also include information about the non-free, proprietary Apple OSX Thai Fonts and Microsoft Windows Thai Fonts

Samples of Apple OSX Thai Font Families

Samples of Microsoft Windows Thai Font Families

Support Lanna Innovation - Order Thai Language Cards

Prices include Free International Shipping

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Fonts Copyright Patent Trademark

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Intellectual property protections for typefaces and fonts are questionable at best, though there are a few areas in which protections do hold, including Copyright, Design Rights (and Patents), and Trademark.1

  1. Font Licensing and Protection Details - SIL


    Originally in the US and other jurisdictions, the idea of a typefaces is one which is pure utility (that is, smacking ink on paper, and conveying a glyph), and therefore there apparently was no art to it, no creation, and therefore no rights for copy protection. This still holds today in terms of bitmapped fonts, which do not have anything unique about them. However, modern fonts are not bitmapped, but rather vectors (think svg rather than jpg/png/gif). And it turns out that there is some art to selecting vectors for a given typeface. In a practical sense, however, making a new font out of an old one (that is, creating new vectors over a bitmap (not merely reverse engineering and copying the vectors in a given font), is not in violation of intellectual property law. Therefore look-alike fonts (done properly) are not illegal, and themselves are afforded the same protection (against copying the vectors or the fonts wholesale).

    Design Patents and Design Rights

    Some other kinds of intellectual property protections are awarded for design, in certain jurisdictions. In the US a Design Patent can be filed for fonts, and provides protection for 15 years (after 13 May 2015, previously it was 14 years). Microsoft generally files these, along with other larger companies, as patents are expensive to file and maintain. In the UK there is a Design Right which provides 5 years of protection, and the ability to renew for 5 years, a total of 5 times, for up to 25 years of protection. This seems a stronger protection. In the EU, there is a similar 5 year x 5 times design registration scheme. If designs are not registered, then they have an automatic 3 years of protection, which is non-renewable. In Canada, fonts can be registered as a Design Patent with 5 years of protection, plus an additional 5 years extension possible. In China, the law is quite muddled and cases are settled with conflicting interpretations, typefaces can be protected as computer programs, and as works of art.


    Besides copyright and patent or design rights, there is also trademark, which is the name of the font or typeface. This protection means that look-alike fonts, while legal, must not infringe trademark rights (have the same or a derrived name). URW++ fonts got into trouble by simply prepending URW 

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Thai Language Typing Software

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Thai Language Touch Typing

For Thai Language touch typing practice, there are different programs for Mac OSX and for Microsoft Windows. - Mac OSX - A Type Trainer 4 Mac - BCC Typing Tutor for Windows

Fonts Needed for Thai Typing Tutor

You will need the DBTT font for this to work. Install as per your operating system (for Windows, simply drag and drop the dbtt.ttf file into the c:/windows/fonts directory).

Thai Typing Game for the Web Browser

Web-based game on the website. This uses Javascript (so it must be enabled).