Switching Between English and Hiragana Keyboards on Mac

I maintain a lengthy set of Japanese language learning notes in a Google Doc (130 pages and counting). When taking notes it's often useful to switch between English and Japanese languages. Fortunately for macOS users this is pretty trivial thanks to a default keyboard setting. To see this setting open your Keyboard settings window:

Switching between English and Hiragana keyboards on Mac

In the above screenshot I've highlighted the relevant setting. That globe represents the function (or fn) key, and if you look to the bottom left of your keyboard you'll see that key. And if you press that key, you'll be able to switch between your defined keyboard alphabets. However, the user experience associated with pressing this key will differ according to the context in which you use it, and if you don't know this it can be quite frustrating which is why I wanted to write this blog post.

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Let's review a few usage examples. To set the stage, as you can see in this screenshot I have three alphabets defined: English, Hiragana, and Katakana:

My keyboard languages

No matter where you are in macOS, if you press this button and then mouse over your keyboard icon located in the menu bar, you will see that your keyboard language is indeed changing! However, this process can be a bit more visual depending on where exactly you are inside the operating system. For instance if you're editing a document and press the function key, then you will see a little window appear below your cursor:

Switching keyboards when editing

Finally, if you're in non-editing mode, and oddly enough outside of some but not all applications, when pressing the function key this popup switcher appears:

The visual keyboard switcher

Hope you found this useful!

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