Modern computer operating systems generally support the use of a standard keyboard to type Thai - it is available as standard in Windows XP. However, it may be necessary to configure the computer to allow the use of the keyboard as a Thai keyboard, and not everyone has the authorisation to perform this configuration.
This may cause a stumbling block for anyone use their employer's computer in their lunch time or after hours. It may be difficult to formulate a business case for the IT department to enable Thai input!
There are two classes of solutions - compiled programs which provide such input, and web pages which convert the characters input by normal means to Thai characters. The problem with the former is that the programs may be Trojan horses. With an interpeted program, such as a web page, one can inspect the source for oneself. I have therefore written such a virtual keyboard web page. Unlike many others, you do not have to be connected to the Internet to use it. It works well if you can touch type Thai using the Kedmanee keyboard, provided you use a QWERTY keyboard.
There is an unsolicited review of this keyboard program.
Older versions are also available: Virtual Keyboard V0 Virtual Keyboard V1.0
Once you have set up a Thai keyboard, you then have to learn where the keys are. Searching for them can take a long time even if the Thai characters are marked on your keyboard. The virtual keyboard above provides two solutions - it has a built-in crib sheet (bested printed as a screen shot), and you can use a 'phonetic' keyboard lay-out. Someone ask whether there was any logic to the layout of the Kedmanee keyboard. Well, there is enough logic of sorts to derive some Kedmanee mnemonics.
Reading Thai has a number of pitfalls. Assuming that you have diligently followed your course, you may get a nasty shock when you try to read the Thai on shop fronts, in magazines, and on toiletries. Some people have even, apparently seriously, ask what this other script that Thais use is. While there are other scripts used in Thailand, just as you can find Greek inscriptions on public buildings in England, it is just that there can be a great deal of variability in a script. Doug Cooper has produced a useful guide to recognising Thai characters.
Having identified an unfamiliar word, you now want to look it up in a dictionary. To do that with a paper dictionary, you must know how dictionaries sort words.
When reading Thai, you will naturally want to be able to pronounce the word. A useful step is to know what sounds you are supposed to be making. One complication is that the system of Thai tones has changed greatly since Thai was first written, and the rules determining the tone are a little complex. Some presentations of the rules make things more complex than necessary; I therefore put together this simple table for the tone rules.
One complication is that in syllables beginning with resonants (i.e. nasals, semivowels and liquids), the tone may actually be determined by the occlusive (i.e. stop or fricative) starting the previous syllable. This may happen when the vowel of the previous syllable is an implict /a/ or /am/ written ำ. To lay the groundwork for trying to find a rule, I compiled a list of candidate words with implicit /a/ in the first syllable.
Most Thai text is written in the TIS-620 encoding or one of its
supersets, such as ISO-8559-11 or Windows Codepage 874. This presents no
problems to a Windows XP computer, provided it is properly labelled.
However, sometimes one will get gibberish such as
"ÃÒªºÑ³±ÔµÂÊ¶Ò¹¢ÍáÊ´§¤ÇÒÁÂÔ¹´Õ·Õè È. ¹¾.Â§ÂØ·¸ ÇÑªÃ´ØÅÂì
ÃÒªºÑ³±Ôµ". For large amounts, one needs a compiled conversion program such
iconv, but for small amounts my
encoding conversion web program may be
I have a similar web page program for decoding the Thai text from Courage Software, and yet another to decode an unidentified legacy encoding.