Windows Character Entry using the US International Keyboard

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For some Latin-based languages, such as French, Spanish, and German, you may be able to get by using the US International keyboard layout for character entry. You might decide to choose to use this layout over memorizing the individual ANSI codes for each character.

Installing the US International Keyboard For Windows 10 version 21H1 or later:

  1. Click Start, Settings, to open the "Time & Language" window.
  2. On the left side, select “Language”.
  3. Under Preferred Languages, select “English (United States)” and click the “Options” button
  4. Under Keyboards, select “ + Add a Keyboard”
  5. Scroll through the options to find “United States-International QWERTY”
  6. The US-International layout should show up in the Keyboards listing
  7. Close out of the settings panel
  8. In the lower right-hand corner of your desktop, you will see “ENG” for your keyboard selection. Click “ENG” and select ENG-INTL for your keyboard.

How it works:

First, certain keys become "prefix" or "dead" keys. It's similar to how accent marks are typed on mechanical typewriters.
US International Keyboard Graphic

   ' single quote key = acute accent
   " double quote key = umlauts
   ` grave accent key = grave accent
   ^ caret (Shift-6) = circumflex accent
   ~ tilde (Shift-`) = tilde accent

When followed by a letter that can take an accent mark, this sequence creates the accented characters. Examples: á, ü, è, ô, ñ.

This may be confusing at first, because nothing is visible on screen after the first key press. The combination character is not displayed until the second key is pressed to complete the sequence. 

If the next character does not take an accent mark, then the prefix sequence is aborted and two consecutive ordinary characters are obtained. For example: since there is no letter p with a tilde ~ on top, the key sequence ~ p will produce the separate characters ~p.

Second, the behavior of the right-hand "Alt" key is modified. Hold the Right Alt key and press other letter or number keys to obtain a wide variety of other letters and accents. Some of them are duplicates of the "prefix" combinations, others are new. 

US International Keyboard Layout with Alt Keys

French Character Entry

DESCRIPTION EXAMPLE KEY COMBINATION
Acute á
Á
' + a
' + Shift-A
é
É
' + e
' + Shift-E
í
Í
' + i
' + Shift-I
ó
Ó
' + o
' + Shift-O
ú
Ú
' + u
' + Shift-U
Ash æ
Æ
Alt-Gr + z
Alt-Gr + Shift-Z
Cedilla ç
Ç
Alt-Gr + , (comma)
Alt-Gr + < (shift-comma)
Circumflex â
Â
^ (Shift-6) + a
^ (Shift-6) + Shift-A
ê
Ê
^ (Shift-6) + e
^ (Shift-6) + Shift-E
î
Î
^ (Shift-6) + i
^ (Shift-6) + Shift-I
ô
Ô
^ (Shift-6) +o
^ (Shift-6) +Shift-O
û
Û
^ (Shift-6) + u
^ (Shift-6) + Shift-U
French/Spanish Quotes «
»
Alt-Gr + [
Alt-Gr + ]
Grave à
À
` + a
` + Shift-A
è
È
` + e
` + Shift-E
ì
Ì
` + i
` + Shift-I
ò
Ò
` + o
` + Shift-O
ù
Ù
` + u
` + Shift-U
Oethel œ
Œ
Not Available On This Keyboard
Umlaut ë
Ë
" + e
" + Shift-E
ï
Ï
" + i
" + Shift-I
ü
Ü
" + u
" + Shift-U
ÿ
Ÿ
" + y
Not Available On This Keyboard
    Note: The minor disadvantage of the international keyboard is that when you want to type the "helping" character (e.g., single or double quotes) by itself rather than above a vowel, you have to type the symbol then hit the space bar. For example, to type c'est, type c then ' then hit the spacebar then type e s t. It takes a little while to get used to typing that extra space when you just want to type ' or "

    If you are plagued by strangeness such as cést when you try to type c'est, re-read the note above.

    German Character Entry

    DESCRIPTION EXAMPLE KEY COMBINATION
    Umlaut ä
    Ä
    " + a
    " + Shift-A
    ö
    Ö
    " + o
    " + Shift-O
    ü
    Ü
    " + u
    " + Shift-U
    Sharp-S ß ALT-Gr + s

    Note: Press space if you wanted " (double quotes). So you need to press Shift + " and then space to get a single double quote in International US keyboard.

    Italian Character Entry 

    DESCRIPTION EXAMPLE KEY COMBINATION
    Acute á
    Á
    ' + a
    ' + Shift-A
    é
    É
    ' + e
    ' + Shift-E
    í
    Í
    ' + i
    ' + Shift-I
    ó
    Ó
    ' + o
    ' + Shift-O
    ú
    Ú
    ' + u
    ' + Shift-U
    Grave à
    À
    ` + a
    ` + Shift-A
    è
    È
    ` + e
    ` + Shift-E
    ì
    Ì
    ` + i
    ` + Shift-I
    ò
    Ò
    ` + o
    ` + Shift-O
    ù
    Ù
    ` + u
    ` + Shift-U
    Umlaut ï
    Ï
    " + u
    " + Shift-U

     

    Portuguese Character Entry 

    DESCRIPTION EXAMPLE KEY COMBINATION
    Acute á
    Á
    ' + a
    ' + Shift-A
    é
    É
    ' + e
    ' + Shift-E
    í
    Í
    ' + i
    ' + Shift-I
    ó
    Ó
    ' + o
    ' + Shift-O
    ú
    Ú
    ' + u
    ' + Shift-U
    Cedilla ç Alt-Gr + , (comma)
    Circumflex â
    Â
    ^ (Shift-6) + a
    ^ (Shift-6) + Shift-A
    ê
    Ê
    ^ (Shift-6) + e
    ^ (Shift-6) + Shift-E
    ô
    Ô
    ^ (Shift-6) + o
    ^ (Shift-6) + Shift-O
    Grave à
    À
    ` + a
    ` + Shift-A
    è
    È
    ` + e
    ` + Shift-E
    ì
    Ì
    ` + i
    ` + Shift-I
    ò
    Ò
    ` + o
    ` + Shift-O
    ù
    Ù
    ` + u
    ` + Shift-U
    Tilde ã
    Ã
    ˜ (Shift+`) + a
    ˜ (Shift+`) + Shift-A
    õ
    Õ
    ˜ (Shift+`) + o
    ˜ (Shift+`) + Shift-O

    Spanish Character Entry 

    DESCRIPTION EXAMPLE KEY COMBINATION
    Acute á
    Á
    ' + a
    ' + Shift-A
    é
    É
    ' + e
    ' + Shift-E
    í
    Í
    ' + i
    ' + Shift-I
    ó
    Ó
    ' + o
    ' + Shift-O
    ú
    Ú
    ' + u
    ' + Shift-U
    Tilde ñ
    Ñ
    ˜ (Shift+`) + n
    ˜ (Shift+`) + Shift-N
    Umlaut ü
    Ü
    " + u
    " + Shift-U
    French/Spanish Quotes «
    »
    Alt-Gr + [
    Alt-Gr + ]
    Inverted Exclamation Mark ¡ Alt-Gr + ! (shift-1)
    Inverted Question Mark ¿ Alt-Gr + /