Type Accents: Windows

Writing in French

If you’re a US Windows user,* far and away the best way to type accents is with the international keyboard setting. This does not require a new keyboard or any software, but rather a simple change to your Control Panel.

Advantages

  • Very easy to set up
  • Maintains QWERTY layout
  • Adds ability to type accents and guillemets (French quotation marks)
  • No need to switch between keyboard layouts
  • Works on both desktop and laptop computers

Disadvantages

  • When you want to type an apostrophe or double quote rather than an accented vowel, you need to type space after pressing those keys.
  • There’s no way to type the ligature œ – for that, you’ll need to use the ALT code.

How to use the international keyboard

After you’ve made the necessary Control Panel change, you just need to type a helping character and then the letter to be accented:

    Type Then type
Accent aigu é (single quote) e
Accent grave à, è, ù ` (to the left of 1) a, e, u
Cédille ç (single quote) c
Circonflexe â, ê, î, ô, û ^ (shift + 6) a, e, i, o, u
Tréma ë, ï, ü " (shift + ‘) e, i, u
Apostrophe (single quote) (space bar)
Double quote " " (shift + ‘) (space bar)
         
For guillemets (French quotation marks), the procedure is a little different:
    Hold As you type
Guillemets
 
«
»
ctrl + alt [
]

Set up

In order to use the international keyboard to type French accents, you need to select that keyboard layout, which is listed as something like English (international):

  • Windows 8
  • Windows 7, Vista, or XP
  • Windows 2000: Control Panel > Keyboard > Input Locales > Change > Add > Select the layout > OK
  • Windows 95, 98, ME, NT: Control Panel > Keyboard > Language > Properties / Settings / Details (whichever you see) > Add > Select the layout > OK

Potential French mistake Troubleshooting

If you keep typing things like jái instead of j’ai, remember that when you just want an apostrophe or double quote, you have to type a space after that key. Otherwise, your computer thinks you’re tying to type an accented letter. So for j’ai, type j then then spacebar then a i. You’ll get used to it!

*UK Windows users

Follow the same set up instructions but choose "UK extended keyboard." Your UK layout will be maintained and you can type most accents with the AltGr key, located next to the spacebar.

Accent aigu é click AltGR and e at the same time
Accent grave à, è, ù type ` (to the left of 1) then a, e, u
Cédille ç click AltGR and c at the same time
Circonflexe â, ê, î, ô, û click AltGR and ^ at the same time, then a, e, i, o, u
Tréma ë, ï, ü click AltGR and " at the same time, then e, i, u

 Don’t use Windows?

Type accents in any operating system

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