Real Mac UK Keyboard Layout

Edit: Oct 2013

Rejoice! OS X 10.9 “Mavericks” now provides a keyboard layout called “British – PC” which faithfully maps a real UK keyboard (so far as five minutes’ examination has shown) onto the Mac (so long as caps lock is not engaged).

Original article (for OS X upto 10.8 “Mountain Lion”):

I hate the Apple UK keyboard layout. I detest it. Defensible as it may be to enhance cross-Atlantic keyboard familiarity, and rational as it might be to place double-quote above single, I still cannot stand it. If I were a ‘switcher’, and had decreed that, from last March, only Apple computers were sufficiently worthy to be graced by my fingertips, I might have come to live with it but I object to having to remap my brain-finger pathways every time I move from one platform to another (remembering which clipboard / paste buffer to use is struggle enough).

All this is an elaborate way of saying that I’ve made a set of truly UK-compatible keyboard layouts for my MacBook Pro and the standard UK USB keyboard I sometimes plug into it. These layouts work for 10.5 “Leopard” and possibly others. They can be found by in my file.

In this zip file you’ll find the two layouts and two similarly-named .icns files which allow you to identify the layouts at a glance. They’re not very pretty but they do the job.

Unzip the archive and, for each user who wants to “type proper” again, place the files in ~/Library/Keyboard Layouts/ (creating the directory if required). Log out and back in to allow Mac OS to discover the new layouts (supposedly /Library/Keyboard Layouts/ can be used for system-wide layouts, but this was not the case on my first attempt and, as I’m the only user of my laptop who cares about such things, I didn’t delve further).

Now open the “International” Preference Pane. On the “input menu” tab, check “Show input menu in menu bar”. You’ll need this because, just occasionally, Leopard will switch you back to a system ‘blessed’ layout and you’ll spend hours cursing your mistaken “@”s until you figure out what’s happened. Now scroll through the keyboard layouts and check “Real UK” and “Real UK – IBM/PC” to allow these layouts to be selected from the input menu.

Close the preference pane, select the appropriate layout from the menu bar, and that’s it.

Oh yes: in case you were wondering, these layouts were created with the eccentric but indispensible Ukelele which guides you through the entire process. This will be particularly useful if you want a layout for a keyboard other than my provided MacBook Pro or IBM/PC layouts.

11 thoughts on “Real Mac UK Keyboard Layout

  1. cc

    Wow, thanks a lot! Another really useful about:nothing triumph. This seems to work perfectly on my MacBook with 10.4. The “Real UK” layout corresponds exactly to what’s on my anti-RSI Kinesis Freestyle keyboard.

    The only trouble now is that I’ve spent the last few months pressing the # key when I want a \ character, @ to get a “, ~ for a |, | for a ~, and so on and so on. It may take a while to get my brain remapped back to normal. Particularly since the input menu seems to like switching keyboard layouts by itself from time to time – in the last few minutes it’s switched to “UK” and to “Real UK – IBM/PC”. Maybe if I just untick them in the International control panel…

  2. gdutton Post author

    MacOS’s tendency to switch of its own accord is rather irritating – however as a Tiger user you might well have the option of unchecking all Apple Layouts; Leopard does not allow this.

    One thing: the default layout-switch keybinding is Command+Space, which is also the default for spotlight. It’s disabled by default on 10.5, but maybe enabled and conflicting on 10.4?

  3. Pingback: A proper UK keyboard layout for Mac «

  4. gdutton Post author

    Still works on 10.7 Lion. Fingers crossed for 10.8 and beyond, assuming you still get a keyboard with your Mac in 2015…

  5. Chris


    This works too on mountain lion, but the British kbd is still visible.
    How can I delete the GB one from the list? I have another one kbd, so using yours I m forced to switch between 3 layouts instead yours and the another (non-UK) one.


  6. gdutton Post author

    @Chris I don’t think it’s possible to remove all system layouts (as distinct from user-defined ones) from the menu: there must be one Apple-provided layout in that menu. Assuming your other Non-UK layout is an Apple-provided one you should simply be able to untick GB from the same preference pane…

    if anyone knows otherwise feel free to weigh in.

  7. Chris

    thx for the reply.

    I read somewhere is NOT possible to remove a keyboard, as the OSX needs one that is classified as ROMAN characters, my other non UK is the Apple Greek one, but there is NO way to have the Greek, as its unicode and no Roman.
    So in fact I need only yours and the Greek , but this is not possible as you see… I assume yours has somewhat to be modded to be recognised as Roman keyboard?


  8. Chris

    sh*t spoke too quickly, the problem is that when the OSX needs root authorization uses an Apple keyboard! not yours , ( no way to switch kbd layouts even , when asks for root authorization).
    probably the solution is to patch the apple’s system keyboard , anyone knows where this file is?

  9. gdutton Post author

    See edit above — I have finally put my keyboard layout to rest on installation of OS X 10.9. Not a bad, near six-year, run for this fix. Note however that the Apple layout has the same flaws as my own fix – namely that mappings revert to standard if the caps-lock key is engaged.

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