French vs. English Keyboards

Recently, I purchased a French (Latin) keyboard because I am tired of the hassle of inserting accented letters into my text. Some people use codes, which I find a bigger problem:

To activate my physical keyboard, I had to follow these instructions:

For my computer, I went to Control Panel, Region and Language, and the Keyboard folder. From there I followed the instructions on the above link.

Once activated, I found that trying to relearn how to type an a, comma, w, z, m, q, semi-colon, exclamation point, question mark, period, single and double quotation marks, and dash was incredibly frustrating. On this new keyboard, the left shift key is smaller, which is a huge problem because I have to now use it to shift when typing a period.

Another unique problem is typing the circomflexe above letters. You need to first type the circomflexe, found where the left bracket is on the QWERTY keyboard, then the letter. Magically the letter appears, i.e. ê. It takes some getting used to.

I later found out that you can simply use the Keyboard folder found in the Windows Control Panel to set up a virtual AZERTY keyboard, and then switch between them on the toolbar.

How are these keyboards different?

The AZERTY layout (bottom) is used in France, Belgium and some African countries. It differs from the QWERTY (top) layout in the following ways:

  • A and Q are swapped,
  • Z and W are swapped,
  • M is moved to the right of L (where colon/semicolon is on a US keyboard),
  • The digits 0 to 9 are on the same keys, but to be typed the shift key must be pressed. The unshifted positions are used for accented characters,
  • The Caps lock is replaced by Shift lock, which affects the non-letter keys as well.

Is it hard to type with this type of keyboard? No, but I have not figured out how to capitalize an accented letter, and there seems to be no “@” sign, which I use to sign into websites. This is what keeps me from physically changing keyboards.

Is there another way to “summon” a virtual keyboard? Yes. You press the “window” key and “r” simultaneously, or the Start key. A program window will appear. In it you can type “osk” and hit return. A virtual (osk) on-screen-keyboard will appear. This keyboard changes automatically according to which language you are using.

Since doing this, my computer will shift from one to the other, whenever it feels like it. Forcing me to shift my typing on the fly. Would you like to try it online before you commit to a virtual or physical version?

Could a person just use a website like this one:

to type in the occasional French symbol?