Setting up a phonetic Cyrillic keyboard in Windows XP

I wrote back in January about setting up my computer to allow me to type in Cyrillic. Setting it up was the easy part; the hard part was memorizing what English letters corresponded to what Cyrillic letters. The default Windows XP Cyrillic keyboard layout is the same one that is used in Russian-speaking countries – that is, there is little rhyme nor reason to how the letters are laid out on a keyboard based on the Latin alphabet. For example, the T key produces the Cyrillic Е, the Y key produces Cyrillic Н, and the W key produces the Cyrillic Ц.

Still having not mastered the Russian keyboard layout, I went hunting for a better solution – and found one. From this page, you can install a phonetic keyboard layout which makes a lot more sense. Instead of having to memorize the random (to English users) layout, with the phonetic layout, you only have to memorize the placement of 7 of the letters. The rest of them are fairly logical – for example, the D key produces Д, the U key produces У, and the S key produces С.

The fellow who maintains the site has a fairly complicated set of instructions, which I personally found to be too complicated. If you’re running Windows XP or Windows Vista, just do this:

  1. Download this zip file, and unzip it to an easily accessible (and findable!) folder.
  2. Go to the folder and double click setup.exe.
  3. Wait.
  4. That’s it.

You should now have, on your taskbar, a button that says “EN”. Click on it and click RU to switch to Russian. The keyboard layout that you’ll be using, when typing Cyrillic, will be this:


If, at any time, you wish to remove the phonetic keyboard, just return to the setup.exe file, double click it, and click Remove.

By |2007-08-12T15:42:22+00:00August 12th, 2007|Russian, Writing|16 Comments


  1. Ashalynd August 19, 2007 at 6:33 am - Reply

    I’d like to mention that Russian native keyboard layout IS pretty logical – e.g. the most used letters are in the easiest row (second one, ФЫВАПРОЛДЖЭ).

    There is a simple old program called Babytype ( that helps to learn different keyboard layouts, including Russian, English and French. If you are serious with learning Russian, I would recommend to learn the correct layout, it makes typing in Russian easier, especially if you want to do it fast.

  2. Josh August 19, 2007 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    Hi Ashalynd,

    Thanks for commenting. You’re right – the native keyboard is fairly logical, and it was my mistake to say otherwise. What I should have said is, for someone using a keyboard set up for a Latin-alphabet language, learning to type with the native Russian keyboard can be difficult, especially if you’re going at it “blind”.

    Thanks for the link to Babytype – I’ll definitely check it out!

  3. José F. October 4, 2007 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    I agree with Ashalynd. There are a lot of latin-to-cyrillic transliteration websites, you can use them if you don’t get used to the Russian layout… It isn’t a hard task anyways, I use the Russian alphabet with my standard Spanish keyboard.

    P.S. It is really funny when you talk to Russians using Russian, and they reply using the Latin alphabet!

  4. Viktor January 20, 2008 at 11:46 pm - Reply

    I’m Russian living in USA and I’ve been using this phonetic layout for years. It’s very useful if you don’t type fast with the native Russian layout and it’s much better than going to the transliteration website.
    I know the Russian native layout by heart but I type very slow without the Cyrillic letters on the keyboard. I tried the BabyType years ago, it’s very nice but I don’t type much and didn’t want to spend time learning typing.
    I can place the stickers with the Cyrillic letters on the Latin keyboard but having two sets of letter on the keyboard is confusing for me. So the phonetic layout is the best way for me to go and I reccomend it to everybody who needs to type in Russian occasionally.

  5. Josh January 20, 2008 at 11:57 pm - Reply

    Viktor: Yeah, I’m still doing fine using the phonetic layout. I also didn’t want to slap stickers on my keyboard, especially considering I don’t type in Russian nearly as much as I type using the Latin alphabet (English, German, French).

    When did you move to the USA from Russia? Your English is quite good. 🙂

  6. Stepan July 22, 2008 at 11:11 am - Reply

    Hello everybody! Just download and install this but have to remove first rus keyboard from the control panel. Now works fine for me. I am russian too and I have a same problem as Victor. I type very slow without russian letters on a keyboard. I am now in Germany in a training and I have a HP notebook. Install it it is works fine.

    Thank you!

    Спасибо болЬшое!

  7. anka July 29, 2008 at 3:59 am - Reply

    thanks once again, Josh. come october I’ll be a full-fledged russian philology student, so this may and will come in handy.

    by the way, I can’t wait. it’s my second major and philologies are known to be difficult, specially when the knowledge of your target language is close-to-nil. than again that’s what makes it more fun

  8. Jade January 25, 2009 at 5:27 am - Reply

    Thanks for the tip, I searched a fonetic keyboard for ages and I find this one very useful ; )

  9. saychoss March 15, 2011 at 1:25 am - Reply

    I like what you have done here, but the “W” and “V” keys seems to be mixed up….non intuitive. “V” should equate to Russian letter “В” and “W” should equate to Russian letter “Ж”. Just some feedback.

    • Josh March 15, 2011 at 7:22 am - Reply

      Hi saychoss,

      I didn’t actually develop the layout. The fellow who developed this keyboard layout offers other Cyrillic keyboard layouts on his website.

  10. Jean-Luc June 2, 2011 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    Hello, first of all thank you 🙂
    I started learning Russian not long ago and I really wanted a way to type the vocabulary I learn on my keyboard without having to learn a whole new layout and this seems to be the solution.
    But I am French and I use an AZERTY keyboard so I decided to create a layout a bit more adapted to the French keyboard. I don’t know if it can be useful to anyone else but I uploaded it anyway (, pictures of the layout included).
    NOTE: I departed of the purely phonetic layout in two occurrences:
    – I mapped the letter “es” to the keyboard “C” (due to the similitude in shape, I kept making mistakes otherwise)
    – I mapped the letter “tse” to the keyboard “S”.
    Also, I moved the closing parenthesis of the AZERTY keyboard one key to the left to make room for the letter “yo”.

    I hope it’s okay for me to post this here and it will be useful to a few peoples.

  11. Spencer June 7, 2011 at 3:00 am - Reply

    Good stuff. Where can you download it? Bulgarian keyboards are the best for various languages that need to be typed out in cyrillic…but that damn y and soft sign >:[

  12. bogdan March 23, 2012 at 5:19 am - Reply

    great stuff! I love it

    the standard russian layout is totally messed up, like shuffled. to use that one I would actually have to buy one with the russian symbols and look at the keyboard. which I never do.

  13. Paul Gorodyansky September 4, 2012 at 10:17 am - Reply

    saychoss said:

    “I like what you have done here, but the “W” and “V” keys seems to be mixed up….non intuitive. “V” should equate to Russian letter “В” and “W” should equate to Russian letter “Ж”. Just some feedback.”

    The site offers this one, too, that’s it in addition to the layout listed in this article – the site offers

    as well as as Phonetic layout suggested by called “Student” –
    they are all shown with their images here:


  14. james kenney November 5, 2013 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    josh, i appreciate your site . the cyrillic program for latin keyboard is a great help in learning russian. the right tools helps yield the right results. спасибо.

    • Josh November 6, 2013 at 1:11 pm - Reply

      James: I’m glad you found it helpful, and that you enjoy my site!

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