How to Type Spanish Characters on a US Keyboard

How to Type Spanish Characters on a US KeyboardFrom time to time, I need to write an essay or a letter in a language that isn’t English — namely Spanish. I’ve always thought that this was a pain, seeing as there was no easy way to insert the accents that are so integral to the Spanish language: It was either dig through the “Insert Symbol” dialog, or remember the ALT code for the letter. Finally, I landed on an easy way to accomplish what I needed to do. It’s worth noting that these steps will work for any language with Latin letters that include accents such as French, Latin, and Portuguese.

  • Open the Regional and Language Options pane by going to Control Panel > Clock, Language, Region > Regional and Language Options on Windows Vista and 7.
  • Select the Keyboards and Languages tab and click Change Keyboards…
  • Click Add… Find your desired language from the list that appears. I’ll scroll down until I find Spanish (United States).
  • After locating your language, click the plus sign in front of its name. Now, click the plus in front of Keyboard. Select the check box marked Show More… Scroll down until you see United States-International and mark the check box in front of it.
  • Click OK, and then OK again to save the changes.

You should now see the language bar either floating on your desktop or docked in the task bar. If you do not see it, right click on the task bar, point to Toolbars, and select Language Bar. The language bar will show two icons: one is a two-letter language abbreviation (EN for English, ES for Spanish), and the other is a keyboard. To switch to Spanish, click the EN and select ES from the menu. Now, you also need to toggle the keyboard being used for input. To do this, click the keyboard icon on the language bar and click United States – International. Your computer and keyboard is now ready to input Spanish (or any other language) characters.

To type characters, hit the accent mark first, followed by the letter it should accent. For example, to type the character é, you type an apostrophe followed by the letter e. Likewise, to type the umlaut u (ü), we type a quotation mark followed by the letter u. This also works for ñ (~ + n) and ç (‘ + c). It is worth noting that while in International mode, to produce only a punctuation mark used for an accent (“,’,`,~), one needs to press space after striking the accent mark. This step is not required if the letter following the punctuation/accent mark cannot have an accent on it. This simple process should make it much easier for you to write documents in foreign languages; I know it has shortened the time it takes me to write in Spanish.

My name is Ethan Baker, and I’m a student from the Northeast United States. To sum it all up in a few words: student, liberal, open-minded. I like to think I’m bilingual… but I’m not really there yet. My interests generally revolve around the sciences and politics, but I plan on moving on to medical school in the future. I have a Twitter feed, so feel free to follow me @ethanabaker.

[Photo above by eatatmarks / CC BY-ND 2.0]

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  • Sam_Norton

    Run CHARMAP.exe

  • Heydavis

    What a hassle!  It’s far easier to just keep a short list of the ALT+ codes handy (e.g., ALT 0233 for é) for the accented letters most frequently needed.

  • johnwerneken

    Excellent tip. My thanks to chris and guest ethan

  • Matt Jones

    No it’s not, trust me, I used to do it that way, but then I found the way he/she is talking about. It’s also much quicker to type that way by using the spanish keyboard, but it’s whatever you make of it. ; )

  • http://twitter.com/lhamil64 Lee

    Another method if you’re in an MS Office program, just hold control and tap the key with the accent mark (like the ‘ if you need that accent above a vowel, or hold shift to get the ~) and then tap the key you want the accent over.
    For example, to type é, you’d hold CTRL, tap ‘, and then tap e.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/gpowerf G.Power

    I used to use Alt Codes for Spanish back in the MS Dos days.

    I don’t tend to write much spanish at all today, good tip though. Certainly makes it easier for me, to be honest the only Alt codes useful for spanish that I remember are 164 and 165 for ñ and Ñ.