by Frank Grießhammer
At the ATypI conference 2011 in Reykjavík, I gave a talk entitled “Pitfalls of Pi fonts.” This presentation was the culmination of a project that involved the creation of keyboard layouts for all of our dingbat fonts. The ultimate purpose of this project was the desire to replace obsolete Type 1 (T1) fonts with more current OpenType fonts (OTFs), which was necessary for various reasons, the most important of which being that T1 fonts lack proper Unicode information. On another hand, this shortcoming in the T1 font format was also its greatest advantage: virtually all the glyphs were easily accessible from the keyboard.
The goal was updating the fonts to reflect the major Unicode 6 update, but without losing the capability of typing symbols with a keyboard. This is why keyboard layouts were created for each of these fonts; when activated, they exactly replicate the former T1 behavior.
In the process, I learned a lot about creating keyboard layouts on Mac and Windows, and used lots of different ways of creating the best workflow. In the end, a scripted solution was created, which would largely automate the work necessary. The process involves creating an XML-based Mac OS X layout first, then converting the resulting XML into a Windows-compatible file.
While the first part is largely tied in with our font production system, and consequently not really useful for anybody else, the second step is quite universal, and can be applied to many XML-based Mac OS X keyboard layouts.
For getting started with creating keyboard layouts, please download my ATypI presentation. It includes my observations on keyboard layout creation, and some useful links and resources. The annotated PDF includes all the slides I showed, plus the complete contents of my talk.
Update February 25, 2013:
Keyboard layout conversion script and documentation are now available on github.