How to type letters with diacritics on a French Azerty Keyboard

Disclaimer These results are obtained on a Ubuntu Linux station with a French AZERTY keyboard layout.

While learning foreign Occidental languages like German, Spanish or Portuguese, you are often in the need to type letters not found in the French alphabet, like the one with strange accents. People (teachers) usually recommend esoteric combinations of ALT + ASCII/UTF number to grab those letters. Here's a no brainer solution.

Batteries included

4 letters are directly available with no effort : é è à ù. On the right of the p key, 2 dead keys are easily accessible ^, the circumflex and ¨ the diaresis or trema. With the help of those dead keys, one can produce ê ë î or ï found in French or German umlauts like ä ö or ü. Great, so what's still missing?

Hide and seek

The ALT Gr(aphic) key, on the right of the Space bar triggers access to a whole new range of possibilites. By typing ALT Gr + è we gain control of the grave dead keys which let us write ì for example. Unfortunately, the acute dead key seems no where to be found. The ' (under the 4) in the top row is a false friend and simply display a quote (which is also useful of course).

Luckily, the trick lies in plain sight. The & (under the 1) key does not seem to have any third function; nothing is printed in the bottom right corner on the physical keyboard. But that's where the ´ dead key is hidden! So by pressing ALT Gr + & and then a, a beautiful á appears on your screen. Yeah.

Pressing ALT Gr + é offers a ~ which is used for the user home directory for example. But what about the Spanish ñ? The tilde dead key is also hidden. To get it : ALT Gr + ^.

Recap of the dead keys for diacritics


ALT Gr + ? ¿ and ALT Gr + ! ¡ are also really great for Spanish. The ALT Gr + ç is a circumflex non-dead key which is waste of space. Still need to figure out how to get (inverted) breves, carons and macrons. Ligatures? Mehh.