How to Create APL or Math Symbols Keyboard Layout

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

This page shows you how to create a keyboard layout for inputting math symbols. for {Windows, Mac OS X, Linux}.

For example, you can create APL (programming language) keyboard layout, or for LaTeX/XeTeX, or simply as a system to type math symbols in plain text.

APL Keyboard Layout

space cadet keyboard 6
Space-cadet Keyboard with APL keycaps.
APL keyboard layout
APL keyboard layout. image source 〔png image 611×172
APL2 keyboard layout
APL2 keyboard layout. image source

Unicode Font

First, you need to have a font that has the math characters you need. The DejaVu font has all APL symbols and vast majority of math symbols.

Download DejaVu fonts at

For other choices, see: Best Unicode Fonts for Programer. For emoji, see Download Free Unicode Fonts.

APL Symbols in Unicode

You'll need the Unicode characters when setting up a layout.

Here's a complete list of APL symbols in Unicode.

¯ × ÷


see also APL Symbols Meaning and Code Example

For other math symbols, such as , see:

Create Your Own Layout

mac unicode char
Mac OS X, 【⌥ option+key】 can be customized to insert your favorite symbol.


For Mac OS X, see: Mac: How to Create Keyboard Layout and Keybinding


For Windows, use 〔Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator By Microsoft. @

Using Emacs

If you are using emacs, you don't need any of the OS layout.

emacs provides you the most flexibility. There are many ways to setup to insert a particular character.

Insert by Keyboard Shortcut

Put the following in your emacs init.

;; example of systematic keys to insert math symbols
(global-set-key (kbd "<f9> <right>") "→")
(global-set-key (kbd "<f9> a") "α")
(global-set-key (kbd "<f9> b") "β")
(global-set-key (kbd "<f9> t") "θ")

The F9 key can be any other key.

You can also set up Hyper and ❖ Super keys.

This method of input is:

For more detail, see: Emacs: How to Define Keys.

Insert by Abbrev

You can insert Unicode by abbrev. For example, typing alpha becomes α. For how, see: Using Emacs's Abbrev Mode for Abbreviation.

This method is:

Insert by Short Code and Activation Key

Another way is to type a short code, from 1 to 4 letters, then press a hotkey to change it to a math symbol.

See: Emacs: xah-math-input.el

It is designed for working with typing math in general, not specifically for APL.

You can add your own abbrevs for APL symbols.

APL Keyboard Keycaps

You can buy a keyboard with APL keyboard keycaps.

unicomp model m us apl 52915
Unicomp Keyboard with APL labeling. Unicomp Keyboard

〔➤see IBM Model M keyboard, Unicomp

back to Keyboard Shortcut and Layout Tutorial