Hebrew Keyboard About to Be Scrambled Somewhat

Israel Standards Institute looking to simplify layout of letters; new-style keyboards due in stores next year.

Refaella Goichman
Refaella Goichman
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A Hebrew typewriter. (illustrative)
Doubly out-of-date: A Hebrew typewriter with soon-to-be changed arrangement of letters. (illustrative)Credit: Dreamstime
Refaella Goichman
Refaella Goichman

Think you can touch-type Hebrew? Ha. The Israeli Standards Institute Wednesday published a proposal for changes to the standard Hebrew-Latin keyboard, in order to belatedly resolve some issues with the layout of the keys in the holy tongue. Altogether it suggests relocating nine letters and punctuation marks.

Among other things, the Institute intends to create a greater distance between the letter vav (which looks like a straight line) and the letter nun-sofit (which looks like a slightly longer straight line). Right now the one is next to the other, which has led to any number of typos.

The Institute also plans to reorganize the punctuation marks, to avert confusion when shifting between Hebrew and English. See, for instance, the comma in English is to the right of the M key. In Hebrew the comma is two keys to the right of the L. The Institute’s solution: Give the period and comma keys of their own and be done with it.

The Institute welcomes the input of the general public to its proposed layout changes, which include relocating the vav, nun sofit, peh sofit, taf, and tzaddi sofit.

In other words, most of the Hebrew keys stay where they are. The Latin keys will be left completely unmonkeyed with.

Experts from IBM and Microsoft sat on the Standards Institute panel for internet systems that decided on the new layout, which is simply supposed to be simpler to intuitively use.

The Institute will accept comments about the proposal until January 12, 2017. After studying them, it will decide whether to approve the new standard and if it does, keyboards based on it should arrive at stores some time next year. Technically, the new layout exists and can be downloaded to computers with Windows and Linux operating systems, and android-based phones.

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