In an increasing connected world you may find yourself trying to send an email to German, Japanese or Greek contacts. You may need to type in more characters than are available on the keyboard. The quick solution to this increasingly common problem is to copy and paste the special character from the web to your document or email. The other option is to use a US-International key board. The latter makes sense if you frequently type special characters.

Use the US-International keyboard

If you frequently use international characters like German, French or Japanese words, the US-International keyboard is very useful. The steps to enable this layout are:

  • Click “Start” and then click “Control Panel”
  • Select “Classic View”
  • Goto “Regional and Language Options”
  • Head to “Keyboards and Languages” tab and select “Change Keyboards”
  • Click “Add” under “Installed Devices”
  • Make sure “English (United States) “ or some other variant of English is selected under “Input Language”
  • Select “United States-International” from the “Keyboard layout/IME” drop down menu
  • Click “OK” twice one after the other
  • Now click the language bar
  • Select “United States-International” from the menu.

Using the US-International keyboard layout

Using the US-International keyboard layout, you can input many oft-used characters easily. You can press the tilde character and subsequently if you press a key that has an associated special character it will be types out on screen else not. These deadkeys make the US-International keyboard very comfortable to use. For central European, Arabic, Greek or Cyrillic you can install additional keyboard layouts. For Chinese and other Asian languages make sure “Install files for East Asian Languages” is checked on the Languages tab. This makes sense only when you use these languages extensively as constant/accidental switching can be tedious and irksome. You also need to memorize what special character maps to which physical key on the keyboard.

A third option is to use the Character map utility to input foreign characters as:

  • Select All Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Character Map from “Start” menu
  • Under “Font” choose “Arial Unicode MS”
  • Highlight the particular character
  • Copy and paste it to where you require it

Again this is not an ideal solution if you need to frequently use the international keyboard layout. There are more comprehensive character maps available like BabelMap. When copying a character fromt the Character Map or Babel Map the font used to create the email message must match the font in the character tool otherwise the result will not be as desired.