An American Keyboard
                            with a European Flair!

For Windows XP users:

IMPORTANT: This solution turns your apostrophe, quotation marks, tilde, and circumflex keys into dead keys for accents.  When you hit one of these keys, nothing happens until you hit the next key, which must be either the letter you want to mark, or the space bar, which gives you the mark from the original US keyboard.  The right Alternate key also becomes an optional character key, allowing quick typing of several foreign letters and symbols.  Once installed, you'll need to play around and practice a little to get used to this.

Here's what you do in Windows XP:

1) Go to the START button (lower left of your screen)

2) Open SETTINGS and CONTROL PANEL, to get a screen like this:

3)  Double click on the "Date, Time, Language, and Regional Options" icon to get the window below:

4)  Click on "Add other languages" (above) and then the "Details" button (below).

5)  Your are now at a panel that looks like the one below.  The key here is to add the United States-International layout to either your English keyboard or to another input language (French, German, Spanish, etc).  Here we call it French (France):

6) Click OK until you're back to the Control Panel and close it.

 

Now you can open Notepad, your word processor, or your email client and begin typing in French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, etc.  For an acute accent (), begin by typing ' and any vowel.   For a "c cedilla" (), type ' and the letter c.  For a tilde (, ), type ~ and n or any vowel.  The right alternate key (or character key) also gives you easy access to many characters. 

This link will give you a nice summary of the US International keyboard.

Note that with the Language Toolbar, you can easily switch back and forth between languages and layouts...

A special email note:  Email poses a few special problems, most deriving from the way some American servers process characters.  If your email is set to HTML or RTF (Rich Test Format), the accents should work correctly, though some recipients may get garbled code.  If you use a plain text format, try the MIME setting with QUOTED PRINTABLE encoding.  These choices should be listed somewhere in the options settings of your email program.

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