keyboard help

Typing International Accent Marks and Diacritics:

Tips, Charts, & Theory
for the QWERTY keyboard
(Windows, Mac, Laptops, smart phones, tablets)
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Writing a letter or academic paper, or sending an email or a text message? Knowing how to easily include special characters and symbols is useful.



Foreign Language Fluency needed, a CNN Money online article (10/30/13)

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Order a mouse pad with accent marks or html codes.

Windows, Using Roman Alphabets
(Note that the various versions of Windows, including WinXP, Vista, and Windows 7, vary slightly in the details and vocabulary but have similar methods.)

Because individual applications such as word processors or HTML codes have their own schemes (Word,, HTML) they are less likely to be 100% transferable to other software applications. However, most Windows applications, including word processors, will accept these methods:
  • Change or add Keyboards
    • Microsoft Windows allows a number of different keyboard languages and layouts. Installation of the "typical", or "default" options provides capabilities for French, Spanish, and other Western European languages.

      In Windows 7, to change the keyboard languages and layout, follow these steps.
      - Click Start-->Control Panel-->Region and Language--> Keyboards and Languages.
      - Click the Change Keyboards... button. This opens a window called "Text Services and Input Languages".
      - Click on the Add button (in the General tab). Scroll to the desired language. Click OK and then Apply.
      - Finally, if you wish this to be the default choice, select it in the box call Default input language and click Apply again.
      - A language bar should appear on the taskbar in the lower right where you can choose among the keyboards you have added.

      In Win XP, to change the keyboard languages and layout, click Start , then choose Settings, Control Panel, and Regional and Language Options. Click the "Languages" tab, then the "Details" button, the "Settings" tab, and the "Add" button. Now choose an input language from a long list. ( IF the "Input language" is English (United States), the US-International English keyboard can be selected by checking the "Keyboard layout/IME" box and choosing it from the list.) Click the ok button to close the Input window. If the added language is a permanent choice, be sure to click Apply to finish the process (the Windows installation CD is not usually needed). For an illustrated version of these directions click here. The keyboard and multilanguage sections in Start - Help and a Penn State site have more information. (For Windows 2000 click this site. Vista info is here.)

      Keyboard layouts for many languages are available. However, they usually do not follow the "QWERTY" layout and some characters, especially punctuation, will not correspond to those printed on your keys. French uses "AZERTY" with letters a/q and z/w interchanged compared to the US keyboard.

      for layout charts for several languages.
      Once the language keyboards are installed, using alt+shift or a designated variation rotates through them (adjustable by changes after pressing the "Key Settings" button. Click the taskbar language icon to switch to another language.

  • The US-International English keyboard layout is installed as above (or see installation details) and has these features:
    • It uses the following intuitive methods which work with most (or all) Windows applications, while keeping the familiar QWERTY keyboard. 
    • Press one of the five modifier keys `  '  "  ~  ^ , then the letter to be modified. ( ' then a = á,   " then u = ü, ' then c = ç, etc. )  
    • Press the right alt key  + another key. Examples:
      right alt + ,  = ç  (or  ' + c) 
                  + / = ¿ 
                  + 1 = ¡ 
                  + c = © 
          + 5 = Euro currency symbol       for a complete chart and printer-friendly summary.
    • Note that this maintains the "qwerty" layout. However, the modifier keys `  '  "  ~  ^  must sometimes be followed by pressing the space bar when they are actually intended. The system can accept words requiring an apostrophe, such as it's, without the space bar.   
    • In Windows XP . click Start, Settings, Control Panel, Regional...options, Languages, Details, Settings, Add. Set Input Language to English - United States. Set Keyboard layout/IME to United States-International. Press Apply and OK.   
  • If you are having punctuation key troubles such as your computer's quote and apostrophe key behaving strangely, the cause may be that your keyboard was accidentally set to the International English Keyboard. The solution is to reset it to a standard English or United States keyboard. 

Win XP: For right-to-left  and East Asian languages select Start, Control Panel, Regional and Language Options (in Vista: Clock, Language and Region), the Languages tab, and then select the desired check box under Supplemental language support.

  • Alt Key Codes (also called Alt number or altnum)
    • Those who use only a few characters, but often and in many applications, may prefer to keep the default United States English keyboard and memorize a few Alt key codes. This method uses the Alt key plus a four digit number entered via the numeric keypad, with Num Lock on. The modified letter appears after the keys are pressed and released. For touch-typers, the disadvantage is having to move their hands to the number pad on the right of the keyboard. Examples follow. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this works in most programs, even in email and filenames. Note that some laptops have a "hidden" numeric keypad.
    • ALT + 0224 = à        ALT + 0225 = á
    • ALT + 0232 = è        ALT + 0233 = é         ALT + 0200 = È
    • ALT + 0242 = ò        ALT + 0243 = ó         ALT + 0241 = ñ       for complete lists (including Esperanto).
    •  
  • Character Map
    • This is useful for the infrequent accent or symbol. It is located at Start - Programs - Accessories - System Tools - Character Map (OR click Start, Run, and type charmap). After choosing a font, double click the desired character(s). After clicking Copy, return to your document and paste. Some fonts (such as Symbol, Webding, and Wingding) provide Greek, icons, arrows and symbols. This system may fail if a combination of keystrokes, as seen in the lower right of the window, has been reserved for another application.
  • PopChar is an improvement over the Character Map. When you need a special character, click the "P" box in the taskbar to display a table of characters. Select the desired character and it instantly appears in your document. HTML symbols are also available.

MS Word uses an extremely intuitive approach giving it advantages similar to
(but perhaps less universal than) the International English Keyboard.

Note that sometimes the software adds its own accent marks (as in café), perhaps as part of spell checking.
    1. Press CTRL and one of the punctuation keys ` ' , ~ : ^ that most closely resembles the accent needed. 
    2. Release the two keys pressed in Step 1.
    3. Press the letter to be modified and the accented character will appear. 
      Thus Ctrl+: with u gives ü and Ctrl+, with C gives Ç. 
    The following chart came from MS Word help/index/characters/inserting/type international. Newer versions have slightly different wording such as help/index/character, then click on Insert an international character by using a shortcut key. Note that some keys such as & require a shift key also.
à, è, ì, ò, ù - À, È, Ì, Ò, Ù CTRL+` (ACCENT GRAVE), the letter 
or the LETTER
á, é, í, ó, ú, ý - Á, É, Í, Ó, Ú, Ý CTRL+' (APOSTROPHE), the letter
â, ê, î, ô, û Â, Ê, Î, Ô, Û  CTRL+^ (CARET), the letter
ã, ñ, õ Ã, Ñ, Õ  CTRL+~ (TILDE), the letter
ä, ë, ï, ö, ü, ÿ Ä, Ë, Ï, Ö, Ü, Ÿ  CTRL+: (COLON), the letter
å, Å  CTRL+@, a or A
æ, Æ  CTRL+&, a or A
œ, Œ  CTRL+&, o or O
ç, Ç  CTRL+, (COMMA), c or C
ð, Р CTRL+' (APOSTROPHE), d or D
ø, Ø  CTRL+/, o or O
¿ ALT+CTRL+?
¡  ALT+CTRL+!
ß  CTRL+&, s

Math and other Symbols

Word 2007 has excellent features which one can reach by choosing the Insert Tab and then going to the symbols section of the "ribbon". Clicking on "Equation" provides about ten built-in equations including the area of a circle and the quadratic equation. Clicking on the Π above "Equation" opens a ribbon of math terms similar to those in the 2003 math equation editor. The drop-down arrows lead to many more terms. Clicking on "Symbol" results in a variety of those, many of which can be pasted into Dreamweaver and perhaps other software. For example, Dreamweaver 8 coded ¿ Á Ñ ç ř Π ℉ ⅛ ∫ √ ∑ (copied and pasted from Word 2007) as ¿ Á Ñ ç ř Π ℉ ⅛ ∫ √ ∑ which seem to be correct. Some Word 2007 features are similar to Word 2003 in the next paragraphs.

In Word 2003, many non-English characters, as well as icons for food, holidays, activities, signs, math, and much more, are found in the Insert menu, then select Symbol. Within this Symbol Window, the font Lucida Sans Unicode provides many accented and other characters for numerous languages.

Word's math equation editor which can compose complex equations is available on the Insert menu - object. If it is not installed, you may have to uninstall Word and reinstall Word with the editor. Purchasing a more convenient math editor such as Math Type is advised for those who write equations often.

More Math tips for MS Word: The Symbol font has many math characters. For example, after changing to the Symbol font, press the tilde key at upper left, without the shift key. You should see a bar. Then type another key such as s; the result for s is a lower case Greek sigma below the bar. If you need an x or X or other letter under the bar, change the font back to a text font such as Times Roman, and then type x or X. For superscripts, such as xn: type x, then press and hold Ctrl, Shift, =. Then type n. To go back to normal letters, press and hold Ctrl, Shift, =. Subscripts are similar but omit the Shift key.


Word Perfect has spell checking, thesaurus, grammar, and hyphenation for numerous languages as well as these useful tips. Another feature is creating a custom keyboard. However, the remapped keyboard may only work within the WordPerfect application.


The Web and HTML tags: If writing directly in HTML code, the tags for special characters are relatively intuitive. They start with & and end with a semi-colon . Examples are &euro; for €, &ouml; for ö, &Ouml; for Ö, &ntilde; for ñ,  &egrave; for è, &eacute; for é, &lt; for < (less than), &gt; for > (greater than), &amp; for &,  &nbsp; for non-breaking space, and &copy; for ©.ASCII numerical codes (such as &#128; for the Euro) are also available on the chart. for complete lists.

In a software application such as Dreamweaver, one can use the International English keyboard. Also, Dreamweaver has Insert - special characters in the menu bar. The shareware application NoteTab provides another method as well as other useful features. 


Non-Roman Alphabets
The following have been mentioned on LLTI or other correspondence; I do not have personal experience with them. 

  • Asian Languages 
  • Cyrillic 
  • Other 

  • Shareware

    • DIACRIT Shareware - the language dependent, diacritical character key map for Windows by Paul Herber.
    • NoteTab - free Notepad improvement and a handy HTML editor. The clipbook library and the pasteboard are incredible time savers whether you create web pages, write source code, send e-mail, take notes, analyze text, read files, or do anything related to text. Price is between free and $20 depending on the version and features.
    • PopChar Win  - displays a table of characters and HTML symbols which are easily moved into documents.

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