Keyboard Help for Special Characters

Not sure how to insert the Spanish accents, ñ, ¡ and ¿ characters on your PC with an English keyboard?. The answer is quite simple. It is the "US International Keyboard" layout and works in all software programs that use all versions of Microsoft Windows. Once you try the "US International" keyboard layout you may never wish to go back to the default "US" layout. Those frequently using special characters may wish to  remove the US layout from their computer and only use the US International layout. If you do decide to keep both layouts active, Windows will display a little keyboard icon near your system tray and you will have to toggle between US and US International layouts.

The U.S. International Keyboard Layout for Windows makes the accented characters very easy to enter, but the keyboard behaves slightly differently. To use this method, one needs to (a) set it up, and (b) know how the keyboard behaves (see below).

(a) Setting up the US International Keyboard

See specific instructions below.  

(b) How the Keyboard Behaves

In the US-International keyboard the five punctuation keys ` ' " ~ ^ are now "dead": nothing happens immediately upon pressing them. If the next key pressed is a vowel, an accented vowel will appear. For an accented a (á), for example, just type the apostrophe ', then the a: á. If you want to to enter a quotation mark (") or apostrophe ('), simply enter the key followed by the space bar.

The table below provides the key sequences for the U.S. International Keyboard Layout:

Windows US-International Keyboard


And Then

To Get

' a á
' e é
' i í
' o ó
' u ú
" u ü
shift ~ n ñ
' spacebar '
" spacebar "
~ spacebar ~
!   !
?   ?


At the Same Time As

To Get

! right alt ¡
? right alt ¿

(a) Setting up the US International Keyboard

Windows 95, 98 and ME:

Click the Start button, then choose Settings, Control Panel, and double-click the Keyboard icon. In the new window, click the Language tab. Under Keyboard languages and layouts, click the Properties button. Select United States-International for keyboard layout from the drop-down menu, or add a language and give it properties - one of which is the US-International English keyboard. Use Apply or OK to finish the process. The Windows installation CD is usually needed.

Windows 2000:

Click the Start button, then go to settings-->control panels-->regional options--> input locales to set the U.S. int'l keyboard. 

Windows XP:
  1. Click Start-->Control Panel-->Date, Time, Language and Regional Options. Click on Regional and Language Options.
  2. In the new window, click on the Language Tab-->Details. In the new window, click on the Add button.
  3. Select English (United States) if it isn't already listed as the language.
  4. Select Keyboard layout / IME as United States - International, Click OK
  5. Scroll to English (United States) - United States-International as your Default Input Language.


Adapted from original source written by member of Team Expansion  (name withheld) and published in Brigada.

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