Accents - French, Spanish, German, etc.

This page describes the easiest way we've found for typing accents on both Windows and Macintosh computers, and how to setup your computer to do it.

Windows: Installing the US International Layout | Using US International | Using ALT Codes

Jump to the Macintosh Instructions


 Please note that Microsoft Office/Word shortcuts will not work in Moodle.

The US International keyboard layout is a feature of Windows that allows for easier input of accents for French, Spanish, German, etc. It is highly recommended for those who do not want to use the ALT number combinations for these characters and should work in most programs that run on Windows.

How to Install the US International Keyboard Layout

From your desktop, go to the Start menu > Settings > Control Panels. Open the Regional and Language Options control panel and click on the Languages tab. You may have to click on a button called Details under a section called Text Services and Input Languages. That should take you to the Text Services window as show below.

You should see the keyboard called English (United States), with a layout called US. Follow the steps below to add the International layout:

  • Click on the Add button to the right of the Installed Services section.
  • In the window that pops up, you want to chose English (United States) as the Input Language and United States – International as the Keyboard Layout/IME.
  • Click on OK

In order to make the Int’l layout your default, choose English – US International from the pull-down menu at the top of the Text Services and Input Languages dialog box (highlighted in the picture to the left).


Using the US International Layout

If the International keyboard is not set as your default, you will have to switch to it in each application you use.  If you are using it in Word, you will not automatically be using it in your internet browser.

View my screencast on how to use the US International layout.

Here is a quick list of the keystrokes for typing accents on this keyboard. A plus (+) means to continue holding down the previous key while striking the next key. A comma (,) means to let go of the previous key prior to striking the next key.

Apostrophe, vowel = acute accent Ex: á é í ó ú
Tilde key, vowel = grave accent Ex: à è ì ò ù
Shift + 6, vowel = circomflex Ex: â ê î ô û
Shift + apostrophe, vowel = umlaut (dierisis) Ex: ä ë ï ö ü
Shift + tilde, letter = tilde over N or O Ex: ñ õ
Apostrophe, c = c with cedilla Ex: ç
Ctrl + Alt + S = German ß Ex: ß *
Ctrl + Alt + 1 = ¡ Ex: ¡ *
Ctrl + Alt + / = ¿ Ex: ¿
Ctrl + Alt + 5 = € Ex: €
Ctrl + Alt + [ = « Ex: »
Ctrl + Alt + ] = » Ex: «
Ctrl + Alt + L = ø Ex: ø *

For more information about this layout, see the Microsoft Website:;en-us;306560

* Some key combinations will not work within Microsoft Word because of the standard keyboard shortcuts that Word employs. Below is a list of Word shortcut keys that you might want to disable in order to type some European characters

Disabling Word Shortcut Keys:

  • In Word, open the Tools menu > Customize
  • Click on the button at the bottom that says Keyboard
  • Highlight the Category and Command that you want to disable
  • Under the Current Keys box, highlight the conflicting shortcut key and then click the Remove button at the bottom of the screen.
  • Close all windows when you are finished

1) In order to type ß, disable the command called DocSplit in the Windows & Help category.

2) To type ¡, disable the command called ApplyHeading1 in the Format category.

3) To type ø, disabling the ListBullet does not work. The work around that I found was to assign the appropriate keystroke to the ø character. You can do this by going to the Insert menu > Symbol, then highlight the ø character in the table and click on the Shortcut Key button. Here you can assign a shortcut key combination much the same way you removed it from the other locations.

Using Alt Codes:

 If you are using alt codes, make sure that Num Lock is turned on!

If you are having trouble getting the International Keyboard to work, Alt codes are a slower, but effective alternative.  To use the alt code for a letter, hold down the ALT key and enter the letter's four-digit combination on the number pad to the right of the keyboard (note that alt codes will not work unless the right number pad is used!).  For example, to type ó (code: 0243), press and hold the ALT key and press 0, 2, 4, 3 on the number pad to the right of the keyboard.  Release the ALT key, and ó will appear.

See this page for common alt codes.


Typing accents or special characters on the Macintosh has remained the same for as long as I've been using Macs (since OS 7.1). And the great thing about it is that you don't have to do anything special to get it to work. Once you know the patterns for inputting certain characters, then it's quite easy to remember how it works. Here is a table that describes the keyboard shortcuts that you can use.

Option + e, vowel = acute accent Ex: á é í ó ú
Option + `, vowel = grave accent Ex: à è ì ò ù
Option + u, vowel = umlauts Ex: ä ë ï ö ü ÿ
Option + 6, vowel = circumflex Ex: â ê î ô û
Option + c = cedilla Ex: ç
Option + n, letter = tilde Ex: ñ õ
Option + 1 = Spanish exclamation Ex: ¡
Option + Shift + / = Spanish question mark Ex: ¿
Option + s = German ß Ex: ß
Option + \ = European open quote Ex: «
Option + Shift + \ = European end quote Ex: »
Option + o = o with a slash Ex: ø
Option + Shift + 2 = Euro symbol Ex: €