From the Kenosha News on 1-8-06

Use keyboard and translation tools to write in other languages

Even if you know another language, typing an e-mail or document in that language can be a daunting task because of the accent marks and special characters. This article gives a quick overview of tools for Mac and Windows users.

MacOS (the Macintosh operating system) has support for accent marks built-in; an upcoming column will explain this. Windows users will need to set up an alternate keyboard definition that provides the characters for the language they want to use. Although I speak French, I'm not proficient at the use of a real French keyboard (where the a and z are switched, for example), so I choose to use the "US-International keyboard." It provides the basic characters for French, German, and Spanish. First, to install this keyboard layout, I click Start -> Control Panel-> Regional and Language Options. Click on the Languages tab and then the Details button. Look for the Keyboard section. Click the Add button and select the keyboard to add from the list. Click Apply and then OK.

To easily switch from one keyboard layout to another requires the language bar; to display it, right- click on an empty space on the Microsoft taskbar at the bottom of the screen. Drag to the Toolbars item and select Language bar. The language bar will then appear toward the right near the date. Click the keyboard icon on the language bar and select the keyboard layout you want.

To see which keys on the keyboard now correspond to which characters, display the On-screen Keyboard by clicking Start->All Programs->Accessories->Accessibility->On-screen keyboard. You'll notice a few keys shown in dark gray; these are keys with special capabilities, including accent marks. For example, the quote key (between the colon and Enter) now creates acute accents when followed by the letter the accent is displayed with. For example, to get é, press the quote key and then the letter e. Press the Shift key on the keyboard to display the functions these keys have when Shift is pressed. For example, to get ö, hold Shift and type " (double quote), then the letter o.

To get characters that don't exist even with the US-International keyboard, use Character Map. To display this useful tool, click Start->Run, type in Charmap and press Enter. Click on the character you need (like ç or ¿), click the Select button, then the Copy button. Go to your document and press Ctrl-V to paste the character into it.

An easy way to "cheat" if you have a long document in another language and you don't want to tediously type all of the accents is to highlight the text in the alternate language and then set the language using the Tools menu->Language->Set Language. Then do a spell check! It will prompt you to add the missing accents.

If your knowledge of a language also requires a little help, several web sites offer rudimentary (if not very accurate) on-line translation tools. My favorite is freetranslation.com. If you use simple, straightforward, clear language, you'll most likely get a pretty good translation – complete with accent marks – that you can paste into a document or e-mail.

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 1-8-06