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There have long been a couple of main methods of presenting Esperanto’s ‘hatted’ letters on computers. One dates back before computers to Zamenhof who in his day was a keen user of typewriters. He used ‘h’ to represent the ‘hat’, placing it after the letter, e.g. ch, gh, hh, etc. This has a few problems. Besides looking strange and adding heaviness to the text it could occasionally cause confusion or amusement where the ‘h’ was needed in its true role, e.g. chashundo, senchava. Of course a hyphen would suffice, so chas-hundo, senc-hava. Another problem is that the h-method upsets the alphabetic order of roots, e.g. fresha precedes fresko, instead correctly – fresko, freŝa
The second main method of representing hats is more recent, i.e. placing ‘x’ after the character needing a hat, i.e. cx, gx, hx. etc. This may look even stranger than ‘ch’ etc but it solves the problems mentioned above – no confusion and alphabetic order is maintained.
A number of redesigned keyboard layouts has appeared, but in recent years the most popular method of producing hatted letters has been to use Jurij Finkel’s program ‘Ek’. Now in version 3.9 it works well with all Windows. Alas not with every program. In Google Mail, for instance, Ek can block the use of the Return key. This can be solved by disengaging and reengaging the utility as needed. A second similar utility is Tajpi by Thomas James. It has become more popular as the more recently modified.
For those using Mac OS X systems it is possible to use one of a number of extended keyboard layouts. Which layout depends on which version of the system you are running. Consult the article on Esperanto Orthography in Wikipedia. Another neat way of producing hatted text is via the online keyboard which includes key presses such as Ctrl+C, Ctrl+G etc.
So-called smartphones are really handheld computers with internet and telephone facilities. On the Apple platform there is a smart replacement keyboard called ĝusta klavaro available from iTunes. For the Android system an appropriate replacement app is called AnySoftKeyboard. Our Association member Aaron Irvine is responsible for the Esperanto layout. It works very smoothly.
The biggest surprise and a welcome one in recent years is the adoption of the language by Google. Not only do we have an Android keyboard but a translator. This cannot be perfect but it is well worth exploiting.
From the birth of Esperanto there have been criticisms of circumflexes as a device, but it has been hard to deny that their use lightens the appearance of text and avoids confusions. They make the printed language easy to recognise and aesthetically pleasing, especially when a typeset is designed to take full advantage of their presence.