Typing Accents

In theory, a computer keyboard could have every character and symbol used by anyone anywhere in the world, but such a keyboard would be far too massive to use! At its core, a computer doesn’t care what keys are available on an attached keyboard, but rather only what key was pressed and the computer knows what key was pressed because the keyboard transmits a code that the computer then correlates to a specific letter or symbol. As a consequence of this setup, a user can send a given code directly to the computer even if the key is not on the keyboard!

In addition to ASCII, ANSI, and Unicode characters, shortcuts are available in Microsoft Office as well as Windows, Macintosh, and Linux operating systems (via secondary international keyboard configuration).

CHARACTER CODES

The three main character schemas are known as ASCII, ANSI, and Unicode. These codes are all entered in pretty much the same way by holding the ALT key while entering three or four numbers  on the numeric keypad (those numbers on right side of a keyboard). It might be counterintuitive, but the numbers at the top and on the side of the keyboard are treated differently by the operating system.

ASCII is the oldest character set and works on any IBM-compatible PC. The original ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) character set published in 1963 contained only 127 characters. An extended range was added in the 1980s, but it still omitted a number of Romance characters. That omission, combined with a  nonsequential numbering, makes ASCII less desirable than other character schemas.

Char alt + Char alt +
â 131
ä 132 Ä 142
à 133
å 134 Å 143
á 160
ç 135 Ç 128
é 130 É 144
ê 136
ë 137
è 138
æ 145 Æ 146
ï 139
î 140
ì 141
í 161
ñ 164 Ñ 165
ô 147
ö 148 Ö 153
ò 149
ó 162
ü 129 Ü 154
û 150
ù 151
ú 163
¡ 173 ¿ 168
ª 166 º 167
« 174 » 175

ANSI can be used on any Windows machine. The grouping of ANSI codes and the  market dominance of Windows make ANSI a preferable entry method.

Char alt + Char alt +
à 0224 À 0192
á 0225 Á 0193
â 0226 Â 0194
æ 0230 Æ 0198
ç 0231 Ç 0199
è 0232 È 0200
é 0233 É 0201
ê 0234 Ê 0202
ë 0235 Ë 0203
í 0237 Í 0205
î 0238 Î 0206
ï 0239 Ï 0207
ñ 0241 Ñ 0209
ó 0243 Ó 0211
ô 0244 Ô 0212
ö 0246 Ö 0214
œ 0156 Œ 0140
ú 0250 Ú 0218
û 0251 Û 0219
ü 0252 Ü 0220
0150 0151
¡ 0161 ¿ 0191
ª 0170 º 0186
« 0171 » 0187

Unicode, as the name suggests, is universal, but varies according to the operating system localization and it has so many characters as to make it impractical for most users.

Char alt + Char alt +
á Á
é É
í Í
ó Ó
ú Ú
ü Ü
ñ Ñ
¡ ¿
ª º
« »

MICROSOFT OFFICE SHORTCUTS

Microsoft Office includes numerous keyboard shortcuts for inputting nearly all Latin-based international characters. To use this system, press the first sequence of keys, release, and then type the desired letter. (For upper case letters, press the initial sequence, release, then press SHIFT and the letter simultaneously).

DIACRITIC PREP SEQUENCE KEY RESULT
acute CTRL ′ a e i o u y
A E I O U Y
á é í ó ú ý
Á É Í Ó Ú Ý
grave CTRL ` a e i o u
A E I O U
à è ì ò ù
À È Ì Ò Ù
cedilla CTRL , c
C
ç
Ç
tilde CTRL·SHIFT ~ a n o
N O
ã ñ õ
Ã Ñ Õ
trema CTRL·SHIFT : a e i o u y
A E I O U Y
ä ë ï ö ü ÿ
Ä Ë Ï Ö Ü Ÿ
circumflex CTRL·SHIFT ^ a e i o u
A E I O U
â, ê, î, ô, û
Â, Ê, Î, Ô, Û
ligature CTRL·SHIFT & a o
A O
æ œ
Æ Œ
CTRL d
D
ð
Ð
CTRL / o
O
ø
Ø
CTRL·SHIFT & s ß
CTRL·SHIFT @ a
A
å
Å
punct CTRL·ALT·SHIFT ?
!
¿
¡
punct CTRL·ALT
(must use num pad)
punct CTRL
(must use num pad)

INTERNATIONAL KEYBOARD CONFIGURATION

Another useful way of entering special characters is to define (an) additional regional or alternate keyboard(s). Adding a secondary international keyboard configuration (i.e. US-International) enables intuitive key combinations similar to the Microsoft Office shortcuts detailed above. International keyboard configurations can be toggled on and off as needed. Dual keyboard configurations are supported by Windows, Mac, and Linux.  Configuration is fairly simple. Instructions and how-to videos are readily available online.