How to change your keyboard settings in Windows in order to type vowels that need accents, as in Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Italian.

How to config your keyboard in Windows in order to type graphic signs
Translator and journalist with a BA in Data Processing

My first computer in Brazil came with a keyboard that was pretty different from the American standard one Im looking at right now. For a start, it had the key , which is used in Portuguese (as in French), but is not part of the English orthography. Also, instead of having the ~ (tilde accent) all the way to the left, right next to the number 1, it was strategically put next to the Enter key, where right now I have the double quotes ( or ). Even though I had to adapt myself and relearn how to type on a computer (it was the beginning of the 1990s and I had been a conventional typist trained in a manual typewriter for a couple of years), I thought all keyboards might have looked like that around the world.

When I bought my first laptop in 2000, I realized what keyboard layout meant; the key arrangement on my laptop was completely different from the one I had been using on my old computer for at least 8 years. Where is the key?, I wondered, believing that I would have to return my new toy to the store and get a laptop that worked. Soon I figure out that could be obtained by pressing the acute accent (the one found right next to the Enter, sharing its key with the double quotes and used in accented vowels such as , , , , ) and then the letter c. Wow! Again, I had to get used to this change and to the fact that the tilde was all the way on the far left, above the tab key.

My typing skills would still have to be reshaped for a third time when I moved to the US. Here, the keyboard had the same layout as the one I used in my laptop, but the keys behaved in a different way. For instance, whenever I presses the acute accent key, it would return me a single quote ( or ) instead of allowing me to chose the vowel I wanted to accent or enter c for a beautiful . And that was when I learned about keyboard configuration

If your computer runs Windows and your keyboard is an American standard device, but you have to type in Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, or any other language that needs an accented vowel, youll have to change your keyboard configuration to make it work.

The first thing you have to do is open your Control Panel Window by clicking on your Start. button. There youll find an icon for Date, Time, Language, and Regional Options (on Category View mode) or simply Regional and Language Options (on Classic View mode). Double-click on Regional and Language Options to open the dialog box, which consists of three tabs: Regional Options | Languages | Advanced. Choose the Languages tab and click on the button Details in order to config your Text Services and Input Languages options.

A second dialog box will open with two tabs: Settings | Advanced. Youll notice that the Settings tab is divided into three parts: Default Input Language / Installed Services / Preferences. In the middle of the box youll see a list of devices installed in your computer which are related to language input. Select your Keyboard device and click on the button Add, which can be found on the right.

A new dialog box Add Input Language will open. Make sure that the input language you have selected from the drop-down menu is English (United States). Hit the OK button in order to close this box and save the settings.

By having United States placed right below your Keyboard list, youll have told your computer that your keyboard has the American standard layout, or arrangement of keys. Now, youll have to let your computer know that you need those special keys to work, according to an input configuration, in order to accent your vowels and, in the Portuguese speakers case, to type the letter by hitting + c.

With your Text Services and Input Languages dialog box still open, youll choose the Default Input Language at the top of the box. Youll have to choose English (United States) United States International from the drop-down list. Ive tried different combinations, including those that said Portuguese for obvious reasons, but none of them worked. If you have an American standard keyboard and you want those accents to work, you'll have to use English (United States) United States International.

Hit the OK button one more time to save your settings and close the box. Youll probably get a message that reads something like this: Your new keyboard settings will only take effect after you restart your computer. You may go ahead and save your work and close all your windows in order to restart your system. When Windows come to life again, youll have your acute (, , , , ) and grave (, , , , ) accents, tilde (~), circumflex (^), diaeresis (, , , , ), and your cedilha ("") working!

But, keep one thing in mind: since youve changed your keyboard configuration, your single quotes ( or ) and your double quotes ( or ) will not behave the same. Once you hit one of them, your computer will expect you to enter another key in order to have an accented letter. Therefore, if you really need the single or the double quotes to be only quotes, youll need to hit the space bar right after entering them.

Well, good luck with your config job. If you have any doubts, you can email me at -
How to config your keyboard in Windows in order to type graphic signs
Author: Rafa Lombardino
United States
English to Portuguese translator
Platinum since Apr 29, 2013 
By Rafa Lombardino
Published on 05/30/2005
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