Typing International Characters on a Computer

Here are a few ways of doing this:
(NB French is given as an example, but the same principles apply to other European languages)

The most efficient way is to add the desired keyboard language or layout to your computer. You will then be able to swap between  English and, say, French by clicking on the taskbar icon.

It will then be possible to generate all the characters to be found on a French keyboard, but of course you will have to work out where to hit a key to produce the desired result. For example, hitting a '2' will give you an 'é'. Be prepared for some surprises - for example, number keys also require the SHIFT key to be pressed and you won't find French « quotation marks » wherever you look.

There is a simple answer to take away the guesswork - buy a keyboard next time you are in France. You will then be able to see what you are doing as you happily type away in French. This will work in any application you have installed on your computer.

Help on this topic
Another way is to use the ALT Key. Every keyboard character has an ASCII number assigned to it. Letters and numbers can be made to appear by typing in their ASCII number, while holding down the ALT Key. In addition, all the characters that do not appear on the keyboard also have ASCII numbers and can be produced in the same way. Remember to hold down the ALT key while you type the number - you will probably find it easier to use the numeric keypad on the right of the keyboard (with Num Lock on).

For example ALT+0233 will produce é

Go to list of ASCII codes 
If you use Microsoft Word™, you will probably know already that you can INSERT SYMBOLS. This feature may be found in many other applications and is fine for adding the occasional 'foreign' character, but becomes rather tiresome if a lot of symbols need to be inserted.
Keyboard shortcuts are a much more user-friendly way of typing in another language in Microsoft Word™ and with continued use become second nature.
For example, if you wish to type an acute accent, hold down the CNTRL button and type ' then release both buttons and type an e. The result should be an é. Click on the link on the right to see a complete list of shortcuts. You can save (or copy and paste) this list and edit it (in Word, of course!), so that you have a list of just the ones you need.

Don't forget that Word comes with a French (and Spanish) dictionary and thesaurus, but you may need to load it using your installation disk. 
Tip: Set the default language to French on a blank page and save it as a template. Now, whenever you want to get started quickly typing in French, you have only to call up this template.

Go to list of shortcuts
What about sending e-mails in another language? If you have Word, you can compose your message using keyboard shortcuts to insert the accents. You then have the option of sending what you have written to an e-mail recipient. An improvement, if you are using Outlook (rather than Outlook Express) as your e-mail client, is to choose to use Word within Outlook to compose your messages.
Surfing the Net? French search engines are in fact fairly tolerant of missing accents, but a French keyboard will make life a lot easier if you want to feel fully integrated with le Web. You can download the French (or other) version of Internet Explorer from the Microsoft website if you're feeling adventurous, but it will take a while. This will overwrite your existing version, but you can backtrack to the previous version if you want to change your mind. A compromise is to install French, German etc. menus for Internet Explorer from the Microsoft website. Go to: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/internet-explorer/worldwide-sites.aspx
and select desired language (rather than US English)
You can also make use of Character Map in order to insert characters in Windows-based programs.
You can open Character Map by clicking Start, pointing to Programs, pointing to Accessories, pointing to System Tools, and then clicking Character Map.
Another very easy option is to use a free online facility called TypeIt. Simply edit your text in the box and then copy it to your document, e-mail message, etc.


Go to TypeIt website


Finally, Visual Keyboard is available as a free download from the Microsoft website. It alters its layout to reflect any changes you may make in your choice of keyboard layout.

Microsoft Office Online