12 Days of Tech

Windows US (International) Keyboard: 12 Days of Techmas, Day 10

MS Windows can interpret your laptop’s keyboard in different ways. By default, your laptop is probably set up for the US keyboard. However, this keyboard makes it difficult to type international characters such as ñ, è, and ö — you have to remember a bunch of esoteric keyboard shortcuts like Alt+0209.

As an alternative, you can change your laptop’s keyboard setting to the US (International) keyboard. This makes the typing of symbols much easier. The International Keyboard is set up so that, when you hit any of the following symbols and then an appropriate letter, it adds the symbol to the letter:

Symbols: ~  `   “   ‘
  • Type ~ then n  to get  ñ  
  • Type ` then a to get à
  • Type then e to get é
  • Type then o to get ö

It works great, but it also changes the way the punctuation works for “regular American typing” (pronounced with a redneck accent). For example, with the International Keyboard, if you press you won’t see it until you hit a second key, which is a little odd at first.  Fortunately, my setup instructions below let you set up both the International and  “regular” keyboards, and you can easily bounce back and forth between them.

Clarification: Most of us think of keyboards as the physical device with buttons that your fingers press. However, Windows also considers a “keyboard” to mean “the settings that control how the computer interprets keypresses.” The instructions below refer to changing Windows settings only, not changing the physical keys on your laptop


  1. Click the Start Menu and click Control Panel
  2. In the top right search box, type “keyboard” and then, under Region and Language, click “Change keyboards or other input methods”.

  3. Click the “Keyboards and Languages” tab and then click “Change Keyboards.”

  4. Click the “Add” button.

  5. Scroll down and click the + next to English (United States), the + next to Keyboard, and then check “United States-International.” Then click OK.

  6. A new icon that looks like a little keyboard should appear in the bottom right of your task bar. Clicking this lets you change keyboard configurations.


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