I’m sure every Windows user has typed é, è, ç, and à using Alt and the keypad on the right-side of their keyboard at some time or another.
Try it out (so long as you’re on Windows)! Alt+130 (é), Alt+138 (è), Alt+135 (ç), and Alt+133 (à).
It’s really useful when you predominately type English words, but occasionally need to throw in some French. As a Canadian, that can happen fairly frequently.
It’s not the best idea to count on it though. If you start writing essays or articles or even just full sentences in French, you’ll soon find a few things:
- It’s really really disruptive to have to move that much physical distance to type “special characters” using the keypad
- Hey… I’m on a device without a keypad! Wth!
- I have to learn new combinations for other letters than those most common ones! Alt+131 (â), Alt+136 (ê), Alt+140 (î), Alt+147 (ô), Alt+150 (û), Alt+151 (ù)
- If you switch to another operating system (e.g. Linux), you’ll find that these keyboard shortcuts don’t work anymore
Well, when I was studying French in Canada, I decided to start using the “French(Canada) Canadian French” keyboard in Windows. It’s similar enough to “English (US)” that you can still write English with only the occasional typo while also being able to write French without resorting to the keypad (or the Character Map).
Today, I had someone ask how to type in Russian on Debian. They didn’t want the interface to be in Russian… they wanted to type Russian. So I started poking around the keyboard layouts and it turns out that Linux has keyboard layouts for so so many languages. Sure enough, there was my beloved “French(Canada)” keyboard!
While I still miss the convenience of using Alt+keypad to get the occasional letter with a diacritic, it’s nice to be able to type in French with ease again!
Edit: Oh… I had forgotten about the “ComposeKey” in Linux (https://help.ubuntu.com/community/ComposeKey and https://help.ubuntu.com/community/GtkComposeTable). It’s actually super duper useful. I like the “French (Canada)” layout because you can “compose” different letters using key combinations, so using only the ComposeKey is quite slick.
Since I rarely write in depth in French these days, the ComposeKey will definitely be the way to go. In fact, since it is mappable, it might be easier than some of the international keyboard layouts even when writing for longer periods of time. Neat!