Inputting IPA Using a Unicode Font

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Download a Unicode font

In order to input IPA using a Unicode font, the font must be downloaded on your computer. Some computers come with a Unicode font, which only needs to be installed; for others you must download a Unicode font from the Internet. If you must download, make sure the font is compatible with your operating system.


  1. Download a Unicode IPA font. There are a few different fonts that you can choose from. Here is a list of possible choices:

  2. Unzip the file to the directory of your choice. Windows XP comes with an unzipping utility, otherwise you will have to download one yourself.


The Mac OSX operating system is Unicode-compliant, but current versions of Microsoft Word for Mac do not support IPA characters. The Mac word processing program, TextEdit, fully supports Unicode, but it lacks advanced formatting ability. A fully functional alternative word processing program is Mellel, which is available for a nominal price at

An excellent Unicode font that includes IPA and many other characters is bundled with OS 10.2.3 and higher, called Lucida Sans Regular. To install it,

  1. Open the following folders in this order:
    • Hard Drive
    • System
    • Library
    • Frameworks
    • JavaVM.framework
    • Versions
    • 1.4.1
    • Home
    • lib
    • fonts
  2. Now locate the font called 'LucidaSansRegular.ttf' and drag it to the Library folder of your user Home directory.

Assign keystrokes for character input

One way of inputting characters is to assign keystroke combinations to them. This way, instead of, having to insert a symbol each time you want to use an unusual character, you simply hit a combination of keys of your choosing that inserts that character. So, '<control> h' can be used to insert ɦ.


To assign keystrokes in a Microsoft Office application, such as Microsoft Word:

  1. Go to "Insert Symbol"
  2. Selecting the character you want to assign
  3. Click on the "shortcut" key
  4. Type the keystrokes you want to use

For a step-by-step guide with pictures, go to's word processing pages. The above only assigns the keystroke for the application you do it in, so if you need it outside Word, you'll need to download Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator to map an IPA character to a keystroke generally.


You can create keyboard shortcuts for Microsoft Word in the same way that you do for a Windows machine. However, Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator is not Mac compatible, so you cannot map the character to a keystroke generally.

Create a special keyboard for character input

Another way to input characters is to make a special keyboard. A special keyboard will assign new characters to your existing keyboard. When activated, the 'e' key can, for instance, insert 'ə' instead of 'e'. You may also make a pop-up keyboard, which pops up on the computer screen when prompted. It contains buttons for the characters you choose to be represented on it. In order to insert a character, then, you simply point your cursor at the desired character and click on it.


  1. Download and install Keyman 6.0 (not Keyman Developer 6.0) The download is a self-extracting EXE file so you don't have to unzip it.
  2. A small Keyman icon should show up at the bottom right of your screen. If it doesn't, try rebooting and/or reinstalling Keyman
  3. Right-click on that icon and select 'Keyman Configuration'
  4. Click on 'install keyboard'
  5. Browse and find the Unicode keyboard you want to work with
  6. When you go into your word processor, change the active font to your IPA font. Then press Ctrl-shift-p to activate the IPA keyboard.


You can use the Character Palette for inputting any Unicode character that is not available on your keyboard. To activate the character palette, do the following:

  1. Open System Preferences
  2. Click on 'International'
  3. Under 'Input Menu' check the box for Character Palette
  4. Click on the flag icon in the menu bar at the top of the screen to bring up the drop-down menu.
  5. From here, click on 'Character Palette' to activate it. You will find a large variety of Unicode characters available for input.

You can also use Ukelele to create a special keyboard. It can be downloaded at:

The content of this page was developed with the help of Dr. Edward Garrett and Charles Bigelow.

User Contributed Notes
E-MELD School of Best Practice: Inputting IPA
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Kevin Mullin,
You can map a character to a keystroke generally. You can do this in the same way that you create a keyboard layout (by modifying the .keylayout XML file -- you can use the SIL program if you like or use or modify the XML document yourself). I have written several keyboards where I assign to a character to a keystroke combination, e.g. OPT key + h outputs an aspiration symbol or OPT + SHIFT + h outputs a voiced glottal fricative. This differs from Windows in that you dont need to start up a separate program (like Keyman) for this to work. Once you have the keyboard selected, the keystroke combination will work globally in any program including Finder.

Also, I note that Microsoft Word 2004 for Mac (Version 11.0) does support Unicode characters although the previous did not). However, combining characters do not always display nicely. For example, a capital V + combining acute accent displays at too low a height relative to the height of V, obscuring the accent somewhat.

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