Accented Characters on the Computer

 

How do you make an umlaut or accent mark when typing on the Internet? The Mac and PC deal with typing accented characters differently. Both have non-English keyboard layouts available. If you do not have access to these or know how to use them, the diacritical marks can still be produced from the US keyboard layout. This page gives you general guidelines for several frequently used languages.

 

Macintosh

You can select a foreign keyboard layout by selecting one in the Keyboard control panel. Be aware that if you select the German layout, Y and Z are reversed according to U.S. layouts! This is a good cultural lesson, though: learn to type the way the Germans do. Umlaut letters are typed quickly and easily with one keystroke.

 

If you want to produce accented characters using the regular U.S. keyboard, read on.

All key combinations described for the Macintosh are valid system-wide, that is, in any Mac program--including web browsers.

On the Macintosh U.S. keyboard (default setting), use key combinations with the Option key as listed below. You will see nothing happen on the screen until you release the Option key and type the desired letter under the diacritical mark you have chosen. For example, if you wish to type é, first type Opt-e, release, then e. For a capital Ü type Opt-u, release, then U (capital u).

Diacritical mark

Key combination

Samples

Diacritical mark

Key combination

Samples

´ (acute accent)

Opt-e, then vowel

áéíÓÚ

¨ (umlaut/dieresis)

Opt-u, then vowel

äëüÖÜ

` (grave accent)

Opt-`, then vowel

àèìÒÙ

˜ (tilde)

Opt-n, then letter

ãõñÃÕÑ

ˆ (circumflex)

Opt-i, then vowel

âêîÔÛ

Other characters are produced directly with the Option key and are listed below.

ç

Opt-c

œ

Opt-q

å

Opt-a

Ç

Opt-Shift-c

Œ

Opt-Shift-q

Å

Opt-Shift-a

ß

Opt-s

æ

Opt-'

ø

Opt-o

¡

Opt-1

Æ

Opt-Shift-'

Ø

Opt-Shift-o

¿

Opt-Shift-/

OS 8, 9: Note that you can also use the Key Caps utility, located in the Apple menu at the top left. You can arrange your windows so that Key Caps is always visible. It shows you what characters are available in all installed fonts. Hold down Shift, Option, or Shift-Option to see "hidden" goodies. When you hold down the Option key, you see all "dead" keys as in the chart above outlined in gray; press one and release it, and the utility will then display all characters available after typing that dead key. (The Key Caps utility is extremely handy if you select a foreign keyboard layout from the Keyboard control panel instead of using the U.S. keyboard layout.)

In OS X, go to System Preferences > International > Input Menu. Make a check next to any keyboard layouts you would like to activate, if this has not yet been done. You should then see a small flag icon near the upper right of the menu bar. You can select your keyboard layout here. Scroll down to the bottom of the list and you will see the Keyboard Viewer, which is similar to the Key Caps utility mentioned above for OS 9.

Windows (PC) with International U.S. English Keyboard

The easiest way to type accent marks on a PC is to use the International U.S. English keyboard.

For Windows 98 & 2000: From the Start menu, choose Settings, then Control Panel, then Keyboard. Click on the Language tab. You should already have English (United States) installed. Highlight English in the Language: list, then click on Properties. Choose United States--International from the list. Close the control panel.

For Windows XP: From Start, choose Settings > Control Panel > Regional and Language Options. Click on the "Languages" tab on top, and then the "Details" button on the next screen. You should see "English (United States)-US". Click on the "Add" button. On the next screen, check the box marked "Keyboard layout/IME" and then select "United States-International" from the popup menu. Close all control panel windows. Now you should see a small keyboard icon in the group of icons on the lower right edge of your desktop screen. Click on that and select the English-U.S. International keyboard to use it; select the regular keyboard again when you don't wish to use it (like when you are only typing English).

After installation: Now, when you want to type an umlauted letter, simply type " (that's a quotation mark). You'll see nothing on the screen. Now type the vowel that goes under the umlaut. Presto! It should now appear on screen. To type the ß letter, hold down the RIGHT Alt key (won't work with the left one) and type an s. You can type acute accents over vowels (´) by typing the apostrophe ('), then the vowel you want. All computers in the MU Language Lab should be set to this keyboard. The following chart summarizes what to do in order to produce the characters needed for French, German and Spanish:

Alternatively, you can select a foreign keyboard layout by selecting one in the control panel. Be aware that if you select the German layout, Y and Z are reversed according to U.S. layouts! This is a good cultural lesson, though: learn to type the way the Germans do. Umlaut letters are typed quickly and easily with one keystroke.

Click here for full information from Microsoft about how to type various diacritical marks using the international keyboard layout.

 

Windows (PC)

If you are at a computer that does NOT have a foreign keyboard layout or the U.S. English International one set, or if you are not allowed to change the settings of the machine, read on...

As far as I am aware, there are no keyboard combinations that are valid across all programs in Windows. Again, if your PC has foreign keyboard layouts installed, they will work in various programs. If you don't know how to use the keyboard layouts or they are not available to you, you can use ASCII codes to produce accentedcharacters. You need to hold down the Alt key and type the proper numerical code. For a chart that gives the codes for commonly used languages, click here. Ihave found that you need to use the numbers on the keypad when holding the Alt key down to produce the characters. This method will type accented characters in a web browser (or e-mail and other programs) and so can be used when doing on-line exercises.

The PC codes to use for German (from the chart referenced above) are given here for your convenience:

MS Word ONLY
Alt + 3 digits
Alt + 4 digits
MS Word ONLY
Alt + 3 digits
Alt + 4 digits

ä

Ctrl+Shift+: then a
132
0228

Ä

Ctrl+Shift+: then A
142
0196

ö

Ctrl+Shift+: then o
148
0246

Ö

Ctrl+Shift+: then O
153
0214

ü

Ctrl+Shift+: then u
129
0252

Ü

Ctrl+Shift+: then U
154
0220

ß

Ctrl+Shift+& then s
225
0223

é

Ctrl+' then e
130
0233

 

Note that individual programs on the PC may provide easier ways to produce accented characters. For instance, Microsoft Word has these built-in key combinations:

áéíóú

Ctrl-' (apostrophe), release, then type the vowel you want

ÁÉÍÓÚ

Ctrl-', release, then type the capitalized vowel you want

äöÜÖë

Ctrl-: (colon, so use the shift key), release, then type vowel

àèÙÒ

Ctrl-`, release, then type vowel

ãñÑÕ

Ctrl-~ (shift key), release, then type letter

âôÊÎ

Ctr-^ (shift key), release, then type vowel

Additional symbols in Microsoft Word:

ß

Ctrl-&, release, then type s (this essentially means Ctrl+Shift-7)

ç/Ç

Ctrl-,, release, then type c or C (Ctrl and comma key, followed by c/C)

œ/Œ

Ctrl-&, release, then type o/O (see ß above)

æÆ

Ctrl-&, release, then type a/A (see ß above)

¿/¡

Ctrl-Alt-? or ! (hold the shift key down with Ctrl-Alt)

If you forget, there is another way to do these and many other symbols available in the font you are using in Microsoft Word for the PC. In the Insert menu, choose Insert Symbol. Choose the Symbols tab and select (normal text) from the list of symbols available. Click on the letter or symbol you want. It will be inserted into your document. You should also see a keyboard equivalent (the same as in the chart above) so that you can enter it from your keyboard in the future.

 

Back to Holtman's Home Page