Last updated: June 2, 2021
Arabic keyboards – virtual and hardware
- Online keyboards
- Desktop: Google Chrome extensions
- Mobile phones: Android
- Physical Arabic Keyboards (hardware)
- Excursus: What is Arabizi?
These virtual keyboards work with every operating system – you just need a browser and don’t have to install an extension or add-on.
If you only occasionally need Arabic letters, for example, to google things, a virtual keyboard should do the job.
You can write with English letters and the text will be automatically converted into Arabic script.
You can also install add-ons for Chrome and Android on the website.
Try it out here https://www.google.com/intl/ar/inputtools/try/
You can access it here https://www.lexilogos.com/keyboard/arabic.htm
Desktop: Google Chrome extensions
There are some handy extensions for Internet browsers.
Google Input Tools
With Google Input Tools, you can easily type in Arabic – using Latin characters or, if you have a tablet, using your handwriting.
Get it on the Chrome Webstore https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/google-input-tools/mclkkofklkfljcocdinagocijmpgbhab
Yamli Chrome extension
Yamli used to be the first and best extensions to type in Arabic (see below) – if you want to use Latin/English characters. I don’t think that the extension will be maintained in future, but it still works.
Get it on the Chrome Webstore https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/yamli/jhninijcbcniklnjbohdmoglogfjbglh/related
Arabic Keyboard Online
This extension is for people you don’t want to write with English characters, but prefer to hit an Arabic letter. It works quite well.
Get it on the Chrome Webstore https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/arabic-keyboard/efjgnndlicleaolkoffalpfkgmaggabk
You can access it here https://www.yamli.com/arabic-keyboard/
The story behind Yamli: In July 2006, the war in Lebanon had started. Habib Haddad was looking for news about the war online. Without access to an Arabic keyboard (I guess he was living in the USA), Haddad had difficulties finding information in Arabic.
Along with co-founder Imad Jureidini, he founded Language Analytics LLC in July 2007 – and developed yamli.
Mobile phones: Android
SwiftKey is a virtual keyboard app developed by TouchType for Android and iOS devices. SwiftKey uses a blend of artificial intelligence technologies that enable it to predict the next word the user intends to type. The company was purchased by Microsoft.
Good for Arabic? Yes, Swiftkey works very smoothly.
How can I get diacritical signs (tashkeel)? Press the letter ظ and you will get all diacritical signs such as Damma, Kasra, Nunation, etc.
Gboard Google Standard
Google is constantly improving its own keyboard.
Good for Arabic? Yes, Gboard works very well.
How can I get diacritical signs (tashkeel)? Press the . (full stop sign) to get the diacritical marks.
This keyboard for Android is based on Yamli. I haven’t tried it myself, but some people told me it works pretty well.
Physical Arabic Keyboards (hardware)
I personally use a physical/hardware USB keyboard as I am used to type in Arabic. If you set up a keyboard shortcut to switch between keyboard layouts, mixing English and Arabic becomes very easy.
German – Arabic keyboard (qwertz)
The best place to buy an Arabic keyboard is ebay. You can get one for 13.50 Euro plus 5.95 Euro shipping = 19.45 Euro.
For German speaking countries You can buy it on Ebay
English – Arabic keyboard (qwerty)
There are many offers for Arabic keyboards in the UK (also on amazon.co.uk), however, you may have difficulties to find a good and fair-priced keyboard in the USA.
United Kingdom Dell Keyboard Arabic-English for 19.99 British Pounds.
USA Unfortunately, Arabic keyboards are pretty expensive.
Excursus: What is Arabizi?
In the early years of the internet, before we had virtual keyboards on our phones and tablets, it was tricky to type in Arabic. So people used Latin (English) characters and developed a weird kind of writing which is still used in Arabic dialects.
This type of writing is often called Arabizi (عربيزي), Arabglish , Arabglizi, Arabish, or Franco-Arabic. The English alphabet is used and enriched by numbers for all the sounds and letters that are typical for Arabic.
|Arabic letters||English letters||Transliteration|
|ء أ ؤ إ ئ آ||2||‘ (glottal stop)|
|خ||5 or 7′||kh|
|ص||9 or s||S|
|ض||d dh or 9′||D|
|ط||6 or t||T|
|ظ||z or th or dh or 6′||DH|
|غ||gh or 3′||gh|
|ق||2 or g or 8 or 9 or q||q|
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Picture credit: Image by Daniel Agrelo from Pixabay