In the days before computers, typing French accents may have required the user to purchase a typewriter with the AZERTY layout rather than the QWERTY layout used throughtout the English speaking world. And if you’d like to use a keyboard the same way they do in France (to this day), an AZERTY keyboard cover can be purchased for your MacBook and the layout changed to AZERTY.
How to type French accents using normal QWERTY keyboard with English layout
If however you’d like to simply use the normal QWERTY layout but be able to type French accents when needed, this can be done using your Mac’s “option” modifier key. This is how it works:
No software needs to be installed or settings changed. Simply hold down the “option” key, press the key that corrolates with the accent you wish to type, then let go of the keys and press the letter you want to type. It can sound confusing when trying to explain it, but once you understand it is quite simple.
For example, if you wanted to type ” é ” then you’d press ” ` ” while holding down “option”, let go of all keys, then press “e”.
Here is how the different accents are typed:
- Acute Accent ( é ): Press “e” while holding the “option” key, release both keys then press “e” again.
- Grave Accent ( à, è, ù ): Press ” ` ” while holding down the “option” key, then press either “a”, “e” or “u” to insert a Grave accent above the appropriate letter.
- Cedilla ( ç ): Press “c” while holding down the “option” key.
- Circumflex ( â, ê, î, ô, ü ): Press “i” while holding down “option”, then press either “a”, “e”, “i”, “o” or “u”.
- Tréma ( ë, ï, ü ): Press “u” while holding down “option”, then press either “e”, “i” or “u”.
- OE Ligature ( œ ): Press “q” while holding down the “option” key.
To type a captial letter with the accent, hold down the shift key while typing the final letter.
Other French symbols you might find useful can be typed as follows:
- Euro symbol (€): Press “option”, “shift” and “2”.
- Quote marks ( » ): Press “option” and ” “ to type of the opening quote mark, and press “option”, “shift” and ” “ to type the closing quote mark.
Looking to type French using an authentic AZERTY keyboard?
It’s easy to change your Mac’s keyboard layout to AZERTY in order to type French that way. However it may be confusing if the keys physically have the QWERTY layout printed on them. A great solution to this is to get AZERTY keyboard stickers which can be applied to your QWERTY keyboard — the stickers can be purchased cheaply via Amazon below:
French AZERTY keyboard stickers for Mac – red with transparent background$7.99USD
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✔ New orange color and large lettering improves visibility on back-lit keyboards.
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French AZERTY keyboard stickers for Mac – black or white$6.99USD
✔ Stickers are made of high-quality non-transparent – matt vinyl, thickness – 80mkn, typographical method.
✔ Available in either black or white colours.