Entering accented characters

This page discusses how to type accented characters such as é and ô, plus other special characters needed in French, Spanish, or German (Italian has no special characters, other than accented vowels).

Note that the information here applies to Microsoft Windows systems only. Sorry, I don't know anything about Apple computers.

The characters that can be entered following these methods are:

á é í ó ú   à è ì ò ù   â ê î ô û   ä ë ï ö ü   ç Ç ñ Ñ ¿ ¡ ß

Entering special characters in any program
Click here for a different method specific to Microsoft Word

The following will work in pretty much any context:

Hold down either "Alt" key, and while holding it down, type the three-digit code shown in the table below on the numeric keypad, and then release the "Alt" key. It is important to use the numeric keypad, not the numbers in the top row above the letter keys.

Accented vowels
Vowel Acute ( ´ ) Grave ( ` ) Circumflex ( ˆ ) Umlaut ( ¨ )
a 160133131132
e 130138136137
i 161141140139
o 162149147148
u 163151150129

Other characters, French, Spanish, & German
Char.Code Description
ç135 French small c with cedilla
Ç128 French capital C with cedilla
ñ164 Spanish ñ, small n with tilde
Ñ165 Spanish Ñ, capital N with tilde
¿168 Spanish inverted question mark
¡173 Spanish inverted exclamation point
ß225 German S-Zett ("ss")

Example: Hold <Alt>, type "130" on the numerical keypad, and release <Alt>
The character é will be entered.

Entering special characters in Microsoft Word
The <Alt> method above will work when entering text into Word as well.
However, some people find the following method simpler in Word.

The key locations below apply only to a standard US keyboard layout.
For instance, & is not a <shift-7> on a French keyboard.

Accents and cedilla
Basically, just type <Ctrl-accent>, followed by the letter:

Step 1: While holding down <Ctrl>, type the key corresponding to the desired diacritical (accent) mark. If the needed key is a <Shift> character (on the upper part of the keycap), you need to hold both <Ctrl> and <Shift>. As long as you are holding the <Ctrl> key while you type the below, this step will not display anything.

    <Ctrl-`> grave accent, key at upper-left under tilde (~)
    <Ctrl-'> for acute accent (´), use a single quote
    <Ctrl-^> = <Ctrl-Shift-6> for circumflex
    <Ctrl-~> = <Ctrl-Shift-`> for tilde, key at upper-left
    <Ctrl-:> = <Ctrl-Shift-;> diaeresis (German "umlaut")
    <Ctrl-,> followed by c or C adds the French cedilla, ç Ç

Step 2: Release all the above keys, and type the character to go under the diacritical mark (or over it, in the case of the cedilla). The character will be displayed along with the diacritical mark typed in Step 1.

Example: Hold <Ctrl>, type ', release <Ctrl>, and type e.   The result in Word will be é

Note: Accent marks can only be put over vowels; a cedilla can only go under a c or a C.

S-Zett, used in German

This is considered to be the ligature "ss", so it's done in two steps, like the accents:

Step 1: Type       <Ctrl-&> = <Ctrl-Shift-7>

Step 2: Release all the above keys, and type an s.

The result: typing <Ctrl-Shift-7> followed by s gives ß.

Inverted ? and !, used in Spanish

            <Alt-Ctrl-?> = <Alt-Ctrl-Shift-/> gives ¿
            <Alt-Ctrl-!> = <Alt-Ctrl-Shift-1> gives ¡

Note the above require holding down three "modifier" keys at once, while hitting a fourth key!

The above methods work in Word 97 and above. For more information in Word, search Word "Help" for "international characters", and click on "Keyboard shortcuts for international characters" .

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This page was first posted February 4, 2009
It was updated August 27, 2009