Thoughts for serious language learners
The Antimoon Blog header image

Solving the problem of typing foreign characters and phonetic symbols on a PC

typeit icon on desktopˈgʊd ˈnjuːz ˈevriwʌn! I just typed this directly into this blog post, using my new TypeIt App for Windows.

Ever since I started learning foreign languages, typing foreign characters and phonetic symbols has been a problem. When learning German, I had a problem with ä, ö, ü and ß; with English, an even bigger problem with IPA phonetic symbols. In order to use phonetic transcriptions in my SuperMemo collection in DOS, I had to design my own IPA screen font.

Today, of course, we have Unicode and the problem is largely solved on the fonts side: if you use a popular font, you can be sure it will include characters for practically all languages. Even more amazingly, all modern operating systems have at least one good font with a full set of IPA symbols.

But there is also the keyboard side. The characters are available, all right, but typing them comfortably is another matter.

Here’s what I think a good foreign-character- and phonetic-symbol-typing solution should be like:

  • Seamless.It shouldn’t make your keyboard behave in an unexpected way. It should give you new characters but not at the cost of existing characters. Users should not be expected to unlearn old habits. (For example, the US-International layout turns the apostrophe and quote into accent keys, so the apostrophe and quote are hard to type.)
  • Intuitive.Users shouldn’t be required to memorize a lot of shortcuts. It should be easy to guess how to type a given character. (For example, Alt+E for é is easy to guess; } for é is not easy to guess.)
  • Efficient. It should be possible to type characters at a good rate.

Several years ago, I made TypeIt, a Web solution which scores pretty high on all three goals. However, it requires you to switch to a browser window, type up your text, select it, copy it, switch back to your target window, and paste the text where you want it. That’s 5 extra steps every time you want to type foreign characters or IPA symbols. If you are regularly using/learning a foreign language, this routine will quickly get on your nerves.

Enter my new baby – the TypeIt App for Windows, which is a neat little app that gives you all the TypeIt goodness without the badness:

  • Type foreign characters and IPA symbols directly into your SRS (Anki, SuperMemo etc.), email, word processor, discussion forums, Facebook, etc. ˈdʒʌst laɪk ˈðæt! (I just typed that using my app.) It’s a whole different experience.
  • Intuitive keyboard shortcuts you know and love. Examples for IPA: Hold Alt and press O to type ɔ; press O again to get ɒ. Hold Alt and press E to get ə. And so on. (It uses the same shortcuts as, only with Alt instead of Ctrl.)
  • Seamless operation without surprises. Doesn’t interfere with punctuation keys.
  • Fast, lightweight app. Installs in seconds. Just works.

In short, the TypeIt app is the easiest and fastest way to type foreign characters and IPA symbols on a PC.


The TypeIt App is distributed by FastSpring. The cost is $17.50 for the Extended Edition (for phonetics professionals and enthusiasts) and $12.50 for the Standard Edition (for everyone). That’s for a lifetime license, good for up to 3 computers in a household.

So if you’re learning a language with à’s, ê’s or ü’s, or you are learning/teaching English and use IPA-based transcriptions, check out the TypeIt app. It will make your life a lot easier.


P.S. There’s a 30-day money-back warranty, so you can always change your mind.


14 Comments so far ↓

  • Hilda Smolash

    Is there any hope of a Mac version soon? I’d definitely buy that.

    • Tom

      Unfortunately, I don’t have any knowledge of MacOS (don’t even own a Mac), but if the Windows app is successful, anything is possible. Definitely not soon, though. Sorry!

  • Radek

    Howdy Tom Can I use it on my PC, because I learn English. I have got a laptop with Windows 7. Is that possible to use on both??

    Kind regards


    • Tom

      Yes, you can install it on up to 3 computers (they all have to run Windows, of course).

      • Radek

        Thanks for your answer, because I learn English and your Website is ok and don’t have enough money for a private lessons ( too ekspansive for me) in English and and your Website helps me a lot in English.

        Kind regards


  • Divine

    am a diction/phonic instructa, dis is a real aid to me. tnx.

  • Hung Tran

    If I re-install or upgrade the windows OS of a machine, do I lost the license on that machine?

    • Tom

      No, of course not.

      • Hung Tran

        Hi Tom,

        Your new software is impeccable as I expect. It worked very smoothly although there was also another unicode running concurrently.

        I have small questions. Can I use both left and right Alt buttons to type IPA symbols or can I change the right Alt/Ctrl to another different button? Because my hands are not comfortable with those default buttons.

        Kind regards,
        Hung Tran

        • Tom

          I’m glad you like my app.
          Currently, it is not possible to change right Alt/Ctrl to any other key. I’m not sure which keys would work better than right Alt/Ctrl. Left Alt/Ctrl doesn’t seem more comfortable (at least on the keyboards that I use).

          • Hung Tran

            Hi Tom,

            Personally, I think the typing habit is developed by the language that a person daily uses. For my situation, it is Vietnamese and my left hand is much better than my right hand at typing. For example: while I hold the left Alt button with my left thumb, the other left fingers still move freely. However, my right hand can’t do that. For this reason, I would be glad if the right Alt button is switched to the left Alt button.

            Best regards,
            Hung Tran

        • Tom

          It also probably depends on your keyboard. Keyboards where the right Alt key is too far to the right can be problematic.

          I’ll add your suggestion to my to-do list – maybe I will implement it in a future version.

  • sahwar

    Or one could just download and use the freeware BabelMap (a Unicode character map app for MS Windows), or one of those open-source software HTML-based IPA-typing apps hosted over at (only the latter have linguistic description of the IPA characters, the former only lists them as part of the Unicode standard and requires you to have the proper fonts that support the relevant IPA Unicode characters).

    One could also download some of the freely available MSKLC-compatible (the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator) keyboard layouts for Microsoft Windows, or custom-made keyboard layouts for other operating systems such as (GNU/)Linux, or MacOS (X).

    But your app is also quite nice for what it is.

  • voyance totalement gratuit

    Blogs like this are not only useful to Canadians but to those within other nations as well.

Leave a Comment