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It is often frustrating for learners of French language when it is not possible to type a specific character. Some people cut-and-paste them from MS Word, which has an automatic spellchecker-corrector, some use Alt+nnnn combinations... But this is cumbersome.

The easiest way for a person using MS Windows and owning a Standard-US physical keyboard is to install French (Canada) layout. French(Canada) layout is more convenient to use for previous Standard-US keyboard user comparing to French(France) layout because the vast majority of letters are in the same places as in the Standard-US keyboard (QWERTY - not AZERTY).

The problem is that even in French(Canada) layout some letters are not obvious how to type. Especially so are the letters: æ, œ, ï, ÿ, ë, ù.

But let's formulate the question in a generic form:

How to type the following letters on the French(Canada) keyboard:

à â æ        (à, câlin, æsthésie)       [accent aigu, accent circonflexe, e dans l'a]
ç            (ça)                       [cédille]
è é ê ë      (mère, parlé, être, Noël)  [accent grave, ...]
î ï          (naître, naïve)            [tréma]
ô œ          (côte, œuf)                [e dans l'o]
ù û ü        (où, coûter, capharnaüm)
ÿ            (Croÿ)

I searched on internet but could not find a satisfactory answer.

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  • Off topic and available easily on the web on specific websites. One example of a Canadian website, one on a US University website. Canada even has a Canadian Multilingual Standard, that's news to me! – Laure Apr 20 '14 at 6:27
  • @Laure: I think it is not a bad idea to move it to SuperUser, as long as it is can be found by searches :-). I do not agree though that this information is "available easily". The web-sites you posted links to, do not tell how to type æ, œ, ï, ÿ, ë, ù without going to Word or Alt-nnnn combinations. They mention the French-Canada layout but how to type with it æ, œ, ï, ÿ, ë, ù they do not explain. – farfareast Apr 22 '14 at 0:56
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enter image description here This is the answer applicable to a standard desktop English(US) 104-key keyboard (see picture here: standard ANSI keyboard layout (US)). On laptops (especially with multilingual/international keyboards) it may not work.

Note: You will need to add "français (Canada)" input method (in Control Panel) (also known as "Canadian Multilingual Standard keyboard") and switch to it for this to work, but it will work in any program - not only in MS Word, for example.

à - \           (the key above "Enter", "|" is also shown on it)
â - [, a        (the key right of "P", then "a")
æ - RCtrl+a     (Right-Ctrl together with "a"; Note: Left-Ctrl will not work)
ç - ]           (the key above "Enter")
è - '           (the key left of "Enter", """ is also shown on it)
é - /           (the key left of Right-Shift, "?" is also shown on it)
ê - [, e        (the key right of "P", then "e")
ë - {, e        (Shift together with [, then "e")
î - [, i        (the key right of "P", then "i")
ï - {, i        (Shift together with [, then "i")
ô - [, o        (the key right of "P", then "o")
œ - RCtrl+e     (Right-Ctrl together with "e"; Note: Left-Ctrl will not work)
ù - RAlt+[, u   (Right-Alt together with [, then "u"; Note: Left-Alt will not work)
û - [, u        (the key right of "P", then "u")
ü - {, u        (Shift together with [, then "u")
ÿ - {, y        (Shift together with [, then "y")

The idea is:

  • é è ç à (the most often used letters) - are directly accessible on keyboard.

Other letters are accessible via "[" (square bracket), which works as a modifier.

  • accent circonflexe: use "[" followed by a letter under accent
  • tréma: use Shift"[" followed by a letter under accent
  • accent grave: use Right-Alt"[" followed by a letter under accent

And finally, æ and œ are accessible via Right-Ctrl:

  • æ - RCtrl"a"
  • œ - Rctrl"e"
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  • Standard US english is 101 key in ANSI, though, and 104 if you have a windows key and context menu key. 105 if you have two windows keys. Pretty sure 102 key is US international, not the standard US layout. – Wyatt8740 Dec 9 '15 at 20:23
  • @Wyatt8740: You are right. Corrected. – farfareast Jan 21 '16 at 19:16
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There are two good solutions that I know of:

Windows US International keyboard

The easiest solution for Windows is to use the US international keyboard. It's one of the keyboards available under the Windows language settings (Control Panel > Language in Windows 8, Control Panel > Regional Settings and Languages under Windows 7 if I remember correctly)

It replaces some keys (', ", `, ^ at least) with dead keys; after punching a dead key, the following key will get the corresponding diacritic. This is straightforward for vowels: é, è, ë, ê, ẽ. ç can be done with the ' dead key too. It's possible to do a a-e-in-the-a (æ), but I don't remember how. Unfortunately it doesn't contain a o-e-in-the-o (œ) which is pretty incredible.

I've been using it for over a year, it's very convenient, and you can easily switch between the US qwerty keyboard and the international keyboard.

WinCompose

Now there's an even better solution that I'm just starting to use, it's WinCompose. It emulates the Linux compose key, so you press a chosen compose key (say right-alt,) then the diacritic, then the letter. You also get æ and œ the same way, as well as pretty much anything: ṏ !

You can also customize the combinations and add new characters. And you don't need to switch the keyboard at all.

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  • I did not know that US-international layout exists. Too bad that it does not have œ. Maybe you just did not find it. I'm specifically interested in French letters. I listed all of the French letters that do not exist in English in my question. Can you provide a table for US-international layout for each letter - what needs to be pressed on keyboard, using comma to depict consecutive presses and + for simultaneous presses, similar to the table in my answer for French-Canada layout. About WinCompose: I would prefer using a Windows standard feature if it exist and is satisfactory. – farfareast Apr 24 '14 at 0:54
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I am surprised no one has mentioned Microsoft's Canadian Multilingual Standard keyboard.

It ships with all sufficiently modern versions of Windows and allows the user to type ALL
accented letters actually used in European languages, including such exotic ones
as Maltese Ħħ or Esperanto ĝĵŭ.

Of course, one has to take the trouble to find out how they can be typed:
Maltese ħ is right Ctrl+h, and Esperanto ĉ is circumflex situated to the right of P+c.

French æ is right Ctrl+a, and œ is right Ctrl+e, diaeresis is Shift+^.

So that, followed by the appropriate vowel, it yields: ä ë ï ö ü ÿ, and even Ä Ë Ï Ö Ü Ÿ, etc.

Even ¹ ² ³ ¼ ½ ¾ can be typed easily, by combining right Ctrl and possibly Shift with the number keys on the top row.

And of course it's free!

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  • Angelos you talking about the same keyboard I'm talking about in my answer. I just did not call it Microsoft keyboard because Windows™ is mentioned in the title of the question. Anyway +1 your answer because it shorter and may be more convenient to read to somebody. And thanks (!) for mentioning additional symbols such as TM (RCtrl+RShift+8) – farfareast May 29 '20 at 20:36
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If you're going to use accents regularly you should consider using an extra layout : http://marin.jb.free.fr/qwerty-fr/
It's qwerty but it adds the possibility to add the accents with a combination of alt.gr + the letter you want an accent on.
There's explanations on how to install and use it.

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  • Maybe it is just me but I would prefer to use a standard Windows feature to installing a third party program. This is of course if this windows feature will provide me with all the special French letters (I listed all letters specific to French in my question). – farfareast Apr 24 '14 at 1:01
  • Which I can understand of course. My answer was just an easy (and lazy ?) way to solve this by using a third party program ^^ – Outpox Apr 24 '14 at 13:04
  • @farfareast - this just installs a new keyboard layout in your list of layouts that you can select. it has œ and æ and all the French diacritics by pressing AltGr + your letter or AltGr+a letter above, below, right or left of your letter. It is cross-platform (Windows, Mac and Linux). – user162573 May 12 '16 at 11:29
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Not sure if I can publish this here (let's allow a mod to remove it if I violate some terms) but I think it directly answers the question. I am the author of a tool, specifically written for expats and students, named keyxpat that puts all the characters you want on the expected key. For example é, è, ë, ê will be found on the E key and it doesn't need any other key. The trick is to wait a certain duration before releasing the E key. A metronome is here to help and it becomes a second nature after some time.

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How to type French with a US layout

Why not try out my new custom multilingual layout which is almost like a Character Map built into the US QWERTY layout? It is basically an improvement of the US-International layout (œ and Œ added) while the behaviour of “normal keys” on a US QWERTY such as '"`~^ are left untouched.

US QWERTY+ (US QWERTY Multilingual Plus layout) for Windows

https://bkeyboard.wixsite.com/bkeyl or https://www.bkeyl.space

(It’s a Windows keyboard layout driver only available on Windows. And it’s not really a third party program)

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  • @farfareast I've tried the QWERTY-fr layout mentioned here and I found it to be quite optimised for typing almost all the important French characters. However, Swiss guillemets ‹› and masculine ordinal indicators º ª are missing and it does not fully support other languages (Nº is used in French instead of superscript o). If you're looking for a very complete international keyboard try my US QWERTY+ Or go all out and try the official Nouvel AZERTY NF Z71-300 – ClavierPixelKey Dec 4 '19 at 12:55

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