For nearly a decade, my preferred method for typing Hindi has been a keyboard layout called Devanagari QWERTY. This layout maps each Latin character on a standard QWERTY keyboard to its closest phonetic equivalent in Devanagari.
For example, while using Devanagari QWERTY:
- Pressing the
rkey produces a
- Pressing the
kkey produces a
- Pressing the
mkey produces a
Therefore, if you wish to type the Hindi word
रकम, you can press
m in succession to do so.
Since the sounds made by the English letters
m correspond roughly to the sounds made by the Devanagari letters
म, anyone who is bilingual in Hindi and English can guess the series of key presses required to produce
रकम without too much trouble.
But that's not it. Devanagari consists of forty eight letters, whereas the Latin script only consists of twenty six. Since Devanagari doesn't have letter casing, Devanagari QWERTY makes use of the
Option keys to map a single key to multiple letters. For example:
Shift + tproduces a
Option + tproduces a
Shift + Option + tproduces a
This mapping is designed in such a way that a Hindi speaker can easily guess which letter any given combination of alphabet and modifier keys will produce.
Similar rules exist for typing vowels: diacritics are mapped to un-modified letter keys, and their independent forms can be produced by using
Option in different combinations. A half-letter can be produced by typing the independent form of that letter followed by a halant/virama, which is mapped to the
The scheme is simple, discoverable, and painfully obvious once you've seen it in action. If you can type English using a QWERTY keyboard, you're already halfway to typing Hindi using Devanagari QWERTY.
A few months ago, when I started using Windows 11 on a secondary computer, I discovered that it only ships with two input methods for typing Hindi: InScript, and a transliteration keyboard called Hindi Phonetic.
I made do with Hindi Phonetic for months, but I've never been a fan of transliteration keyboards. My irritation with this input method got the better of me last week, and I was compelled to look for something more reasonable. My search led me to the download page for Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator, a creaky old program that lets you customize and create keyboard layouts for Windows. Bingo!
Using MSKLC, I was able to create a keyboard layout for Windows that was identical to the macOS version of Devanagari QWERTY. Creating, testing, and packaging it took me about half a day, a large part of which was spent restarting Windows. When I was done, I put the files on GitHub in the hopes that they might be useful to somebody else.
At the time of writing this entry, I've been using my port of Devanagari QWERTY for Windows inside Telegram, Firefox, Evernote, File Explorer, and Microsoft Word for nearly a week. Despite my initial misgivings, it appears to work perfectly across all the apps I use regularly.
You can download Devanagari QWERTY for Windows from its GitHub page here: https://github.com/s3thi/devanagari-qwerty. If you run into bugs, please feel free to open an issue or write me an email. If you enjoy using the layout, I'd love to hear from you over email or Twitter.