Thursday, December 5, 2013

Typing the letters ä, ö and å

It is not difficult to enter these letters on a computer keyboard, but the best method depends on how often you need to do so and whether you want to write in Finnish or to use English with just a few Finnish words or names. The method you choose also depends on the kind of computer you have and the programs you use. 

This is a long article, so please scroll down through the headings to see what is appropriate for you.  

I am not a computer expert, and I invite readers to leave a comment, correction, question, alternative method or other additional information.

The Simplest Methods for Occasional Use

Mac Computers

On a Mac, press the Option key and a at the same time for å. For ä or ö, press the Option key and u simultaneously, then release and press a or o. For upper case, use the shift key as usual when entering a or o.   

Other Computers

On PCs running Windows, special letters and symbols can be entered by using CTRL or Alt codes.  I prefer the following method.  Make sure that Num Lock is switched on at the top left of the numeric keypad. Hold down the Alt key to the left of the space bar while entering  the numbers, in sequence, (see below) on the numeric keypad.  When you release the Alt key you should see the desired character.

ä              Alt 1 3 2,               Ä            Alt 1 4 2
ö              Alt 1 4 8                Ö            Alt 1 5 3
å              Alt 1 3 4                Å             Alt 1 4 3
€              Alt 0 1 2 8

Note that the computer may automatically convert the first letter of a sentence or a new line to upper case even if you typed the lower case letter. 

The Easy Way for Frequent Use with Microsoft Word and Outlook

The above methods tend to break the flow of typing, although less so for Mac users. Another option is to convert keys you seldom use to represent these letters. This will work for both Mac- and PC-users who employ MS Word for documents and Outlook for e-mails. It may also work with other Word-based programs, but it does not for g-mail. 

I rarely use square [ ] or curly brackets { }, or the key for ` and ~ at the top left corner of the keyboard, so I assign these to foreign-language letters or characters. In Word, click Insert, then Symbols. Scroll down and click ä. Click AutoCorrect and press the key you want to designate for it, then click OK.   Do the same again for Ä using shift on the designated key.  Repeat with different keys for other letters. To revert to the symbol or character shown on the key, click on it and then Backspace. The next time the key is pressed your designated letter will appear.

Setting up the Finnish and Swedish Keyboard Layout

Computers can be set up so that you can easily switch back and forth between the standard North American keyboard layout and the standard Finnish and Swedish keyboard layout (which are identical and shown below). However, a problem with using this layout is that many of the punctuation marks and symbols are in a different location than marked on the keys.  If the other methods described you, try this.

Mac Computers

On a Mac, choose System Preferences under the Apple menu, then Language and Text, then Input Sources and Finnish.

Other Computers

On PCs using Windows, select Start, then Control Panel, then Region and Language, and then:
·         In Windows 7, select Keyboards and Languages, then Change Keyboards, then Add. Scroll to Finnish, select +, then + beside Keyboard, select Finnish and OK.  Select Apply on Text Services and Input Languages, then OK again on Region and Language
·         In Windows XP, select Languages, then Details, then Settings, then Add. Click on the down button under Input Languages, scroll to Finnish, select OK, make sure that Finnish is highlighted under Keyboard, select Apply, then OK, and select Apply and OK on Regional and Language Options.
Close the Control Panel. You will now see EN on the Taskbar. Click on it and it will be replaced by FI and the layout will have changed. Click again to revert to the North American keyboard.  


The Windows method for changing the keyboard layout works for g-mail, but if that is the only program you want it for, try the following instead: Click on the Settings cogwheel toward the upper right corner of the Inbox. Select Settings and then Language, and scroll down and select Suomi. When you wish to Compose, click on the down arrow beside the keyboard icon (next to the cogwheel) and select Suomi.  Switch back to English as desired.

Both layouts use the same keys for English alphabet letters, numerals, full stop, comma, exclamation mark, pound and percent symbols (!, #, %). Other punctuation marks and symbols vary. To type @, press the right-hand Alt key and 2 simultaneously; the other symbols and marks on the lower right of the Finnish keyboard are typed in the same way.  Alternatively, you can easily click back to English to type these characters. 

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