August 27, 2009

Typing Special Characters in Windows

If you’ve ever tried to type an accent, in Spanish or Portuguese for instance, using a standard US keyboard, you know it can be frustrating. One solution to this problem is to change the keyboard layout to match another country, like the Latin American or Spain layouts. This brings its own set of problems since the keys will no longer match what you see on your keyboard.

An alternative is to use a special layout called the US International keyboard layout, available on all versions of Windows; it will allow you to enter accents with a US keyboard layout. Generally, it can be found in the language and regional settings section of the control panel where you add a keyboard to your existing setup. It’s a good idea to remove the standard US keyboard and set US International as your default, otherwise they have a tendency of switching when you move from one program to another. To type an acute accent (é or í), you would enter a single quote (‘) followed by the letter e or i. The disadvantage to the US International keyboard is when entering an apostrophe or quotation (‘ or “), since these are used for entering accents, you would need to press the spacebar immediately after to get just the apostrophe or quotation. To give you a better idea of how it works, see the two keyboard layouts below, the first is your standard US layout, the second is the US International layout.

Figure 1. US Standard Keyboard Layout
Figure 2. US International Keyboard Layout


  1. works great for translating, but need to turn off when proofing!

  2. When I'm using Windows I can't say I've noticed any particular need to turn off the International layout when proofreading, can you clarify on why you find doing so easier?

  3. its too easy to forget to space for a simple apostrophe for me. so i turn it off for proofing. can you imagine... proofing and accidentally adding an accent instead of an apostrophe?