2014-11-04

VMWare Fusion, Windows 8 and British Keyboards

I've been running VMWare Fusion for years to run a dual monitor setup with one screen Mac and the other screen 'PC'.  I recently upgraded to VMWare Fusion 7 and my Windows 7 virtual machine kept working just fine.  However I recently had to start from scratch with a new VM to install Windows 8.1.  I realise that there may be upgrade routes via Windows 8 but, after two hours on the phone with Microsoft technical support for an unrelated issue I personally decided that a clean install would be the way to go.

The problem is, the keyboard just doesn't work properly in the default setup.  It is years since I had to play with these things and it took me a while to figure out how to put mappings in place that make my British keyboard do the right thing.  There may actually be a problem with Fusion 7 if this forum thread is anything to go by.

The symptoms are that the '@' symbol, which is typed with shift-2 on the Mac keyboard was coming out as double-quote like it would on a PC keyboard and try as I might I could not figure out how to type a back-slash at first at all.

The solution is to go to the VM's settings, duplicate the profile you are using (VMWare created a Windows 8 profile for me) and then add some custom mappings. I found this a bit counter intuitive because you need to start by opening something like Notepad in the VM and experimenting until you find the characters you want, note down the key combination you pressed to get them and then switch to the profile screen and add a mapping from the keys you want to press to the key combinations you just discovered work. A picture will help...

Shift-'
This is the double quote on my keyboard but without the custom profile it types '@', a simple switch with Shift-2 that almost all Mac users are probably already familiar with.
Shift-2
The reverse mapping of the above
Option-3
Turns out that the backslash key types a hash/number/sharp sign on the PC so we map Option-3 to that if, like me, you have become habituated to the Apple way.
\
Turns out that the backslash is now typed by the section sign (that's the curly thing that looks like a tiny spiral-arm galaxy).
Shift-`
Lastly, you may have to hunt for the '~', but it gets typed when you hit shift-backslash on the PC. On the Mac it appears over the back-quote or back-tick symbol.

That's the most important ones. Note that shift-3 correctly types the pound-sterling sign '£' so I didn't have to touch that at all. I have no idea how one types a section sign or the combined plus-minus '±' sign on the PC but in my line of work there is very little call for them. I warmly invite readers to add their own suggested mappings as comments to this post!