Typing accents  ALT codes  Choosing a keyboard

Typing accents using ALT codes

This method is suitable for people who:

  • work predominantly in English, but from time to time need to type accents;
  • have a good memory for numbers/associations;
  • can't or don't want to reconfigure the computer.

This method relies on the fact that "under the hood", the computer assigns a code or number to each symbol and letter of the alphabet. It is possible to type a character by directly entering its code on the numeric keypad.

How to type accents using this method

To type a character using this method:

  • Hold down the left-hand ALT key;
  • On the numeric keypad, type the code corresponding to the character you want to type;
  • Let go of the ALT key.

The character codes (sometimes called "ALT codes") of some important characters used in French are given in the following table.

CharacterALT codeCharacterALT code
ALT codes for accented and special characters commonly used in French


  • you can generally capitalise a letter by subtracting 32 from its code;
  • in some software, depending on your configuration, you may find you do not need to type the preceding zero;
  • if you have a laptop keyboard without a numeric keypad, there will probably be a way (e.g. using a "function" key) to mimic one—consult your owner's manual! (You could also invest in a plug-in USB numeric keypad.)

What if I don't know the code for a character?

So, how do you find the ALT code for an accented character if you don't know it?

The answer is that you can find the code to a character using the Windows Character Map utility. Go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools and choose Character Map. This will present you with a grid of characters, as shown below. Clicking on a character in the grid will show you its ALT code in the bottom-right. In this example, we find that the ALT code for the German beta s character is 0223:

Character Map example

Although not very efficient, you can actually type accented characters by copying them directly from the Character Map utility. See the following page on typing accents using Characger Map.

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