Typing in IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) made easy (Mac OSX version)

Background:

IPA is an international phonetic character set (with some extra markings) that help singers sing in any language by just learning how each phoneme is to be pronounced (easier said than done). Currently many who want to write out or print out a song's words in IPA, either have to do it by hand, or make use of the very unproductive, finger twisting, immensely inefficient "Symbols" option in tools like MSWord.
There's a better way - install a keyboard layout on your Mac and install a reputable version of the IPA font. If that is what you want to do, then read on!

Note:Windows and Linux is also supported by following various links within these instructions

For Mac OSX users

(tested on 10.6 Snow Leopard)

There are 3 simple things that need to be done to enable typing IPA directly into a text document (as opposed to the very cumbersome use of MSWord's Insert Symbol hassle).

1) Install a keyboard layout file and re-login

  • Retrieve the IPA keyboard layout
    • To download the layout immediately right from this page
    • To navigate to the original web pages (in case you would like to find other alternatives and options along your way, or in case there might be a newer update)
      • Navigate in your browser to IPA Keyboard.
      • Scroll down to the subheading "Mac OS X Keyboards" (about 4 screen pages worth).
      • Continue down past the sub-subheading "IPA Unicode 5.1 Macintosh Keyboard v1.4".
      • Then down to the sub-sub-subheading "Download".
      • Click on the hotlink "Download IPA-MACkbd.dmg" under the entry for "IPA Unicode 5.1 Macintosh Keyboard v1.4" which downloads your downloads folder.
  • Install the IPA keyboard layout
    • Depending on your personal settings, the downloaded .dmg file might auto-launch. If not, then double-click it (from within your downloads folder) and it will open a custom finder installer window.
    • In this window, there will be two files: 1) a .pdf file to let you know what keys to press etc., and 2) a keyboard layout file you need to install. Save a copy of the .pdf file elsewhere on your hard drive for later use (drag it somewhere) because its presently only located within your .dmg file.
    • Open a 2nd finder window and navigate to the location YourHardDriveName - Library - Keyboard Layouts.
    • Drag a copy of the file called "IPA Unicode 5.1(v1.4) MAC.keylayout" to this Keyboard Layouts folder.
    • Installing the layout in this folder will allow anyone who logs into your computer to use the layout (provided they also follow other pertinent installation instructions for their login).
    • Dismount the disk image by clicking the eject icon next to the "Keyboard" entry under DEVICES in a finder window.
  • Log out and back in again
  • Notes − README (to save you from wasting time)
    • You won't see anything different yet until you complete step 2.
    • Read the file you dragged off for later use called "IPA Unicode 5.1 (v1.4) MAC Keyboard.pdf" − which explains how to use the keyboard layout successfully. Without using the "deadkey" sequence, your IPA keyboard will likely work like any other English (USA) keyboard and allows you to type normally in most cases without changing back and forth between keyboard layouts when you need to type normally.
    • Various fonts and tools on the www.sil.org site have licenses. Individual users are responsible for how they use such freely offered resources referenced in this article as terms may change or be updated from time to time.

2) Enable international keyboard capabilities

  • Enable the IPA keyboard layout
    • Open your System Preferences application (from your Dock, or from the Apple menu in the top left of your screen)
    • Select the icon in the top row called "Language & Text" (Note: As of this posting, the included instructions in the "IPA Unicode 5.1 (v1.4) MAC Keyboard.pdf" file are out of date and instruct you to select an icon entitled "International" which might apply to Mac OSX 10.5 or something earlier).
    • Click the "Input Sources" tab (Note: As of this posting, the included instructions in the IPA Unicode 5.1 (v1.4) MAC Keyboard.pdf file are again out of date and instruct you to select the "Input" tab which again might apply to an earlier version of Mac OSX).
    • Scroll down to find "IPA Unicode 5.1(v1.4) MAC" and click the box on its left.
    • If you hadn't already selected another international keyboard, you will now see a new icon in your upper right menu bar area (a national flag of sorts). Click on the flag to pop down a list of enabled key layouts to change between keyboards.
  • Notes − README
    • Changing to the keyboard layout to IPA will not automatically switch you into the correct font (since there could still be many to choose from). You will also have to select the DoulosSIL font within your application as well − which must be installed in step 3.
    • In the future now, once multiple keyboards have been made available, make sure you have the correct keyboard enabled during other activities so that you don't get weird behaviors in your apps and font situations. For the most part, it won't be a big deal if you have the wrong keyboard layout selected. But, I've made my disclaimer − personal experiences may vary.

3) Install the DoulosSIL font suite (which works with the keyboard layout given in these instructions)

  • Retrieve the DoulosSIL IPA font
    • To download the font immediately right from this page
    • To navigate to the original web pages (in case you would like to find other alternatives and options along your way, or in case there might be a newer update)
      • Navigate in your browser to DoulosSIL font.
      • Scroll down to the subheading "Font Download" (about 1 and ½ screen pages worth).
      • Scroll just a little further to the sub-subheading "Doulos SIL 4.106 (official release)".
      • Just below that sub-subheading are various download options under the title "Doulos SIL".
      • Click on hotlink Download "DoulosSIL4.106.zip" which downloads your downloads folder.
  • Install the DoulosSIL IPA font
    • Open your downloads directory, navigate to the DoulosSIL folder.
    • Double-click the file DoulosSILR.ttf thats within the DoulosSIL folder This will open your pre-installed application called Font Book and open a window that gives you the choice to "Install Font".
    • Click "Install Font".
    • Close Font Book application.
  • Notes − README
    • While your text editing applications may now see the font, getting at the "funny IPA" characters will still be difficult unless the keyboard layout is installed as well (see step 1) − just in case you skipped around in the order of your installation :).
    • Text editing applications may need to be closed and restarted in order to see the freshly installed font.
    • See the SIL.org web pages to read up on Known issues.
    • Various fonts and tools on the www.sil.org site have licenses. Individual users are responsible for how they use such freely offered resources referenced in this article as terms may change or be updated from time to time.

Using the IPA keyboard layout and font

  • Once these 3 steps are completed switching back and forth is as simple as two mouse-clicks (well, maybe only one mouse-click!)
    • Click one − change keyboard layouts from the flag in the upper right corner of your screen.
    • Click two − change to the DoulosSIL font in your editing application.
  • Note: As mentioned above in the keyboard layout installation instruction notes, you should be able to use the IPA keyboard to do normal typing in for your English (USA) needs and not have to keep swapping between layouts. You will have to swap fonts as you need to however. Other notes:
  • For a current list of compatible apps and their quirks.
  • Main page for the DoulosSIL font.
  • Finding Software on ScriptSource (lots of other fonts for use).
  • IPA Transcription with SIL Fonts.

Feedback please!

  • Found a typo?
  • Have a better way to communicate these steps?
  • Want to offer your experiences with other versions of operating systems (including Windows, Linux)?
  • Then please either email me at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or create a login to this blog and enter a reply comment!

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