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Ergonomic Concepts > How to Generate French Characters on any Keyboard
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How to Generate French Characters on any Keyboard

What are French Characters?

French characters are characters with accents that are used in the French language. Typically they involve adding extra symbols to letters that English users are familiar with.  On occasion they alter letters slightly in addition to adding additional symbols. Here is a list of all the common characters (with both sets of ALT codes):

Capital Vowels Lowercase Vowels Consonants / Punctuation
À A with Accent Grave (ALT + 0192) à A with Accent Grave (ALT + 0224/133) Ç C (Capital) with Cedilla) (ALT + 0199/128)
 A with Accent Circumflex (ALT + 0194) â A with Accent Circumflex (ALT + 0226/131) ç C (Lowercase) with Cedilla (ALT + 0231/135)
Ä A with Accent Umlaut (ALT + 0196/142) ä A with Accent Umlaut (ALT + 0228/132)    
È E with Accent Grave (ALT + 0200) è E with Accent Grave (ALT + 0232/138)    
É E with Accent Acute (ALT + 0201/144) é E with Accent Acute (ALT + 0233/130)    
Ê E with Accent Circumflex (ALT + 0202) ê E with Accent Circumflex (ALT + 0234/136)    
Ë E with Accent Umlaut (ALT + 0203) ë E with Accent Umlaut (ALT + 0235/137)    
Î I with Accent Circumflex (ALT + 0206) î I with Accent Circumflex (ALT + 0238/140)    
Ï I with Accent Umlaut (ALT + 0207) ï I with Accent Umlaut (ALT + 0239/139)    
Ô O with Accent Circumflex (ALT + 0212) ô O with Accent Circumflex (ALT + 0244/147)    
Œ O and E Linked (ALT + 0140) œ O and E Linked (ALT + 0156)    
Ù U with Accent Grave (ALT + 0217) ù U with Accent Grave (ALT + 0249/151)    
Û U with Accent Circumflex ALT + 0219) û U with Accent Circumflex (ALT + 0251/150)    
Ü

U with Accent Umlaut (ALT + 0220/154)

ü U with Accent Umlaut (ALT + 0252/129)    
Ÿ Y with Accent Umlaut (ALT + 0159) ÿ Y with Accent Umlaut (ALT + 0255/152)    

What are French Canadian Keyboards?

French Canadian keyboards have legends for the French Canadian layout printed on their keycaps, i.e. there are extra characters and symbols printed on the keys. The keyboard itself does not generate the French characters; it generates the same characters as any other standard English keyboard. The characters are generated by enabling a French Canadian keyboard layout in the operating system which change the characters generated by the keys. The keyboard is legended to provide the user with indications of the differences between the French Canadian layout and the standard English layout. In some cases special characters can be generated with a single keystroke, in other cases the accent is entered initially (i.e. accent grave or accent aigu) and then the letter the accent is to be applied to is pressed (e.g. a, e, i, o, u). If a capitalized letter with an accent is required, enter a capitalized version of the letter (A, E, I, O, U).

Is There a List Online of Where the Symbols are Legended on a French Canadian Keyboard?

Yes there is.   View the list, or review some sample French Canadian layouts.

How to Generate French Characters on any Keyboard (3 Options)?

Just to reiterate, the following options are available on either a French Canadian legended or English legended keyboard.

OPTION 1 - RECOMMENDED METHOD FOR REGULAR ACCESS
  1. Go to Start - Settings - Control Panel - Regional Settings - Languages.
  2. Click on the Details button - and select "French (Canada)" as the input language.
  3. Select "Canadian French" (---> NOT CANADIAN MULTILINGUAL <---) as the layout.
This is the only reasonable, ergonomic and practical way to access French characters on a regular basis. If access to a French character is required only occasionally, then a toggle can be easily set up in the taskbar (i.e. one can then click on the language of choice, EN for English or CF for Canadian French) which will toggle the layout from standard English to French (Canada).

Using the ALT codes (OPTION 3) is a cumbersome way to generate special characters and is not recommended in general as it requires a complex combination keystroke.  Many individuals choose to perform this with one hand, making  it even more of a risk factor when keyboarding. If there is a need for a number of special characters on a regular basis, from multiple languages, consider getting a programmable numeric keypad where these special characters can be directly assigned to a specific key.

OPTION 2 - RECOMMENDED METHOD FOR OCCASSIONAL ACCESS

  1. Go to Start - Programs - Accessories - System Tools - Character Map
  2. A list of special characters available in the current font will display (including French Canadian characters).
  3. Double click the desired character, or select the character and click the "Select" button.
  4. Click the "Copy" button.
  5. Return to the program where the character is required (word processor, email, etc.) and press "CTRL-V" or select "Paste" from Edit on the Menu bar.
  6. The desired character will appear in that location.

OPTION 3 - ALTERNATIVE (NOT RECOMMENDED) METHOD FOR OCCASSIONAL ACCESS

  1. Ensure that there is access to the numeric keypad (these are the numbers arranged in a grid pattern on the far right side of a traditional keyboard, or as an embedded layer on a Compact Keyboard).
  2. If the keypad is on an embedded layer, it is usually accessed by pressing and releasing a Fn (Function) key, or possibly the NumLock key. On occasion the key to enable the embedded numeric keypad is not toggle access (i.e. press and release) but rather is shift access (i.e. press and hold).
  3. Press and hold down the ALT key and type the appropriate ALT code on the numeric keypad, and then release the ALT key. The character should be generated. There are both 4 digit ALT codes (which always function) and 3 digit ALT codes (which will always work in most Windows applications, but are also dependent on the selected font i.e. they will not work on all fonts).
  4. IMPORTANT NOTE #1: The numbers on the top row of the keyboard (i.e. 1 (!), 2 (@), 3 (#), 4 ($), etc.) will NOT generate the special characters as the number keys on the top are considered different than those in the numeric keypad by computers.
  5. IMPORTANT NOTE #2: External numeric keypads cannot be used along with the ALT key on the keyboard i.e. the ALT key has to be on the SAME physical device as the number keys.

 

Last edited December 9th, 2013

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