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Though you may live in the U.S.A., your international outlook often prompts to type letters to recipients living in France, and to pepper your essays with French expressions. Or perhaps you’ve decided to take French to broaden your travel horizons, and need to type essays in that language. Unfortunately, your American-bought keyboard, while perfectly functional for English, lacks any facility for Gallic characters.
Actually, if you’re using Windows, you can use a standard keyboard to create French accents and French words. However, you will need to use a word processor or entry box that accepts formatted characters. For example, Microsoft Word or WordPad can handle French characters, but the text-based Notepad cannot.
The simplest method of typing letters with French accents is to press the CTRL key and the accent mark, and then the corresponding letter. The following are examples:
- To enter “á”, press the CTRL and apostrophe (‘) keys, and then the “a” key.
- To enter “è”, press the CTRL key and apostrophe (`) key next to the “1” key on the main keyboard. Then, press the “e” key.
- To enter “ç”, press the CTRL key and comma(,), and then the “c” key.
- To enter “ê”, press the CTRL key and (^), and then the “e” key.
- To enter “ä”, press the CTRL key, SHIFT key and (:), and then the “a” key.
You cannot type ligatures like “æ” with this method.
You can also type French accents and French words by using ALT codes. This requires pressing the ALT key and while keeping it pressed, entering the corresponding code below using the number keypad.
À ALT + 0192
Â ALT + 0194
Ä ALT + 0196
à ALT + 0224
â ALT + 0226
ä ALT + 0228
Ç ALT + 0199
ç ALT + 0231
È ALT + 0200
É ALT + 0201
Ê ALT + 0202
Ë ALT + 0203
è ALT + 0232
é ALT + 0233
ê ALT + 0234
ë ALT + 0235
Î ALT + 0206
Ï ALT + 0207
î ALT + 0238
ï ALT + 0239
Ô ALT + 0212
ô ALT + 0244
Œ ALT + 0140
œ ALT + 0156
Ù ALT + 0217
Û ALT + 0219
Ü ALT + 0220
ù ALT + 0249
û ALT + 0251
ü ALT + 0252
Ÿ ALT + 0159
ÿ ALT + 0255
Switching to the French Canadian Keyboard
When typing long French documents, you may prefer to
temporarily switch your keyboard to a French layout in Windows 7.
the Start button and then click “Control Panel,” “Clock, Language and
Region” and “Change Keyboards or Other Input Methods” under Region and
Language. The Region and Language dialog box appears.
the “Keyboards and Languages” tab, if it is not already active. Then press
the “Change Keyboards” button to display the Text Services and Input
Language dialog box.
the “Add” button, if French does not appear as an installed service. This
shows the “Add Input Language” dialog box.
the variant of French that you need. I recommend using “French (Canada)”
and under that, choosing “Canadian French” because this keyboard most
closely resembles the American QWERTY keyboard. The France keyboard from
France has a slightly different, and more confusing layout.
Press “OK” to close the Add Input dialog box. The “FR” icon appears next to “French” in the Installed Services box. Press “OK” twice to close the Tex Services and Input Languages dialog box and the Region and Language dialog box.
The “EN” icon for “English” appears on the far right of your taskbar. Select that icon to show the Languages popup. Pick “FR (French)” to activate the French language keyboard.
Using the French Canadian Keyboard
You type French accents on French words as follows:
- To enter a vowel with an acute accent like “é”, press the apostrophe (‘) key and then the vowel.
- To enter a vowel with a grave accent like “à”, press the apostrophe (`) key next to the “1” key on the main keyboard. Then, press the “e” key
- To enter a vowel with a circumflex like “ê”, press the SHIFT key, the “[“ key and then the vowel.
- To enter a vowel with a trema like “ä”, press the SHIFT key, the “]” key and then the vowel.
- To enter the “ç”, press the “]” key and then the “c” key.
You cannot type ligatures like “æ” with French Canadian keyboard.
For information on typing Spanish accents, see How to Type Spanish Accents on Spanish Words.
© 2011 by Aurelio Locsin
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© 2011 Aurelio Locsin
lollipop on October 22, 2013:
Using Alt codes is so.... 1990.
Jason on February 09, 2013:
I find ALT codes somewhat easier than CTRL key and I'm not familiar with French Canadian keyboard. Now I use TypeFrench.org (free online keyboard) and also easytypefrenchcccents.com (software). Both extremely simple. The only drawback - the software is for Windows only, no Mac version, but it's great if you have Windows.
Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on August 11, 2012:
Hi Aurelio. Very useful hub. In fact, I hope you can instruct how to put certain Greek symbols like alpha, beta, sigma, phi to name a few as well as some measurement symbols like microgram (mu g).
Voted up, useful, interesting and awesome.
Merci mon ami. Sharing.
add-diva from Georgia on June 19, 2012:
This is very helpful because it saves me from having to use the Symbol Insert function in MS Word. Merci beaucoup!
Aurelio Locsin (author) from Orange County, CA on June 01, 2012:
Merci beacoup, charlesxavier04.
charlesxavier04 from London on May 31, 2012:
Good job, c'est une très bon hub! I'm sure this will be very useful for those who want to learn the language!
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 22, 2012:
Good information to know. Thanks for the primer on how to use it when it comes to typing French accents and words. Voted useful & interesting.
Nomascus concolor from A Country called Earth on April 23, 2012:
Nice hub! I always struggle when I use an English keyboard. I will learn the main ones by heart. Voted up and useful
Aurelio Locsin (author) from Orange County, CA on April 19, 2012:
Thanks Roy W. Many Windows apps can produce these accents.
Roy W on April 16, 2012:
I have to point out that Notepad is quite capable of producing french accented characters and of saving them correctly using the alt + numeric key method.
Aurelio Locsin (author) from Orange County, CA on March 14, 2012:
Je vous en prie (you're welcome), PWalker284.
PWalker281 on March 14, 2012:
This is good to know AL when I want to practice my college French. Merci! Voté up et utile (that's what Google translate gave me)!
Jennifer Essary from Idaho on March 11, 2012:
Voted up, interesting, and awesome. I took 5 years of french in school and never knew I could use the correct characters on my keyboard. Perhaps it is because when I learned the language people still used typewriters and word processors. Thank you for sharing this wonderful knowledge. Bookmarked and sharing.
Aurelio Locsin (author) from Orange County, CA on February 25, 2012:
The Mac is a lot easier to use than the PC ;)
Ann Carr from SW England on February 24, 2012:
Interesting. If you have an apple MacBook, the Edit facility gives you 'special characters' which is useful, if a little tedious as you have to insert each bit as you go, or do it all afterwards. I send lots of French emails but I find it's ok to do it this way. Voted up and useful.
Pamela Dapples from Just Arizona Now on January 27, 2012:
Wow! You've really done your homework on this. I had to stop half way through and go re-read your profile to see if you're French or have PhD in computer technology. Good work and a great reference for all of us.
Michael S from Danville, VA on December 10, 2011:
So helpful! Thank you very much!
Aurelio Locsin (author) from Orange County, CA on June 20, 2011:
Je vous en prie, CyclingFitness.
Liam Hallam from Nottingham UK on June 20, 2011:
merci beaucoup c'est un fantastique hub alocsin.
Cathy I from New York on June 10, 2011:
Thank you for some very useful information.I have sometimes wanted to use a certain word or phrase but never knew how to put in accents or cedillas. Good job.
Aurelio Locsin (author) from Orange County, CA on June 04, 2011:
Very true, Miss Mellie. But without a Mac myself, that isn't something I can personally test, so I didn't describe that.
M.S. Ross on June 04, 2011:
For those who might be curious, accents and special characters can also be made on a Mac keyboard: comment ça va, fröhlich, ¡Arriba! Voted useful.
rafken from The worlds my oyster on June 03, 2011:
Up and useful, thanks, I always wondered about this.