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How do Italians typically resolve the issue of entering uppercase vowels with diacritics on a PC (Windows or Linux) with an Italian keyboard, given that these are missing from the printed text appearing on the keys and by default cannot entered via Shift (also known on Italian keyboards as the Maiusc key), Ctrl, Alt key combinations (unless some modification is made to the default layout with the Microsoft MSKLC application)? On Windows 7 I have tried both the Italiano and the Italiano (142) keyboards and both lack this functionality by default. I cannot understand why those who created these keyboard layouts, however long ago that may be, never thought about adding key combinations for inserting uppercase Italian vowels with diacritics.

Thanks.

  • 1
    Unfortunately there isn't a simple solution for that. When using a word processor I usually type lower case and if needed (e.g. starting a new sentence) it's converted automatically. Otherwise you have to either copy/paste from character map or use ALT+xxxx combination (e.g. ALT + 0200 for È) – algiogia Jan 15 '15 at 13:36
  • I use the gvim text editor to convert the character to uppercase once it's inserted by moving the cursor over the character and typing the ~ character with the keyboard configured as a US keyboard so that SHIFT + the key in the upepr-left hand corner yields the ~ character. However, this is only one solution. I doubt anyone else uses this method unless they come from a programming background. As for a full solution using ALT codes, see my answer below. – John Sonderson Jan 15 '15 at 14:21
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    I cannot leave a comment as I only just joined specifically to help you out. This isn't an answer to your question but a solution to the problem. If there are common characters which you want to type (such as those missing accented capitals) you can use the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator to customise your layout. For example I bought a US keyboard but I am British. So the keyboard was missing the £ sign. I added it back with this tool. – Chro Jan 15 '15 at 16:23
  • @Chro, yes, I was aware of that tool and in fact mentioned it in my question, but what I was looking for was the reason some of the characters often found in Italian text are missing from Italian PC keyboards. I in fact bought a computer with such a keyboard and this left me wondering about this issue. Regards. – John Sonderson Jan 15 '15 at 18:54
  • I've just remapped my whole keyboard, but I guess I can be considered a quite advanced user. – o0'. Jan 16 '15 at 9:18

12 Answers 12

16

Using the Italian keyboard layout on Linux (at least on Ubuntu 14.04), you can get the uppercase versions by engaging caps lock. For example, to type É, I turn on caps lock and press shift-è. I'm not sure whether this works on Windows and Mac, though.

In practice, I've noticed that Italians will often append an apostrophe in place of a grave accent when the diacritic is not available, or is too inconvenient to produce:

E' VIETATO INTRODURRE cicli e motocicli

  • 2
    No, caps lock is not being used as a compose key here: as your link says, a compose key "signals to the software to interpret the following keystrokes (usually two) as a combination to produce an alternate character". Toggling caps lock on the Linux Italian layout simply causes all letters to be capitalized; it won't let you explicitly compose a diacritic and a letter, and each letter (even with diacritics) only requires a single keypress. Caps lock works exactly as you'd hope: it gives you the capitalized version of what you're typing, even for letters like é which require shift to be held. – Pont Jan 16 '15 at 7:31
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    In any case, putting an apostrophe instead of a diacritic sign is actually an error. – IssamTP Jan 16 '15 at 9:53
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    The question asks how Italians customarily write capitals with diacritics, so I attempted to answer this particular question. I make no claims for the correctness of the custom which I report in my answer. The use of the apostrophe does seem to be common in practice even if not officially sanctioned, so I think it's a valid answer to the question as stated :-). – Pont Jan 16 '15 at 10:18
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    Well, this particular point can lead to a nearly infinite discussion, so I bet is better to stop here :). – IssamTP Jan 16 '15 at 13:25
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    So È is simply the sequence caps lock è caps lock! Wow, I've been using Linux for years now, and didn't know this one! – Walter Tross Jan 17 '15 at 21:29
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On the PC, special Italian characters, many of which are not present on Italian keyboards, can be inserted using the following ALT codes. To use these, first ensure that the Num Lock key has been pressed once so that it has become enabled (this key is also known as the BI Num key on Italian keyboards); usually a green LED above the keyboard will light up once this key has been enabled. Next hold down the Alt key, type the four-digit numeric code, then release the Alt key. Here is the list:

À   ALT+0192 (Uppercase Stressed A)
È   ALT+0200 (Uppercase Stressed Open E)
É   ALT+0201 (Uppercase Stressed Closed E)
Ì   ALT+0204 (Uppercase Stressed I written with grave accent)
Í   ALT+0205 (Uppercase Stressed I written with acute accent)
Ò   ALT+0210 (Uppercase Stressed Open O)
Ó   ALT+0211 (Uppercase Stressed Closed O)
Ù   ALT+0217 (Uppercase Stressed U written with grave accent)
Ú   ALT+0218 (Uppercase Stressed U written with acute accent)   
Î   ALT+0206 (Uppercase (Ending Truncated Stressed) I with circumflex)

à   ALT+0224 (Lowercase Stressed A)
è   ALT+0232 (Lowercase Stressed Open E)
é   ALT+0233 (Lowercase Stressed Closed E)
ì   ALT+0236 (Lowercase Stressed I written with grave accent)
í   ALT+0237 (Lowercase Stressed I written with acute accent)
ò   ALT+0242 (Lowercase Stressed Open O)
ó   ALT+0243 (Lowercase Stressed Closed O)
ù   ALT+0249 (Lowercase Stressed U written with grave accent)
ú   ALT+0250 (Lowercase Stressed U written with acute accent)
î   ALT+0238 (Lowercase (Ending Truncated Stressed) I with circumflex)

º   ALT+0186 (Masculine Ordinal)
ª   ALT+0170 (Feminine Ordinal)
«   ALT+0171 (Left Angle Quote)
»   ALT+0187 (Right Angle Quote)
€   ALT+0128 (Euro Currency Symbol)
£   ALT+0163 (Old Italian Lira Currency Symbol (Same as UK Pound Currency Symbol))

The Euro () symbol can also be inserted via the AltGr+e and AltGr+5 keyboard combinations.

In Microsoft Word as well as in LibreOffice, when lowercase letters such as è are inserted at the beginning of a sentence the software automatically converts them to uppercase letters such as È. In both software products it is also possible to switch between title case, all caps, and lowercase, by highlighting the given text and entering the SHIFT+F3 key combination. This significantly reduces the need for being able to enter uppercase letters with diacritics directly via the keyboard when using these software products.

It is also possible to produce these characters inside other software products including text editors by installing Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator and using it to assign special characters to unused keyboard combinations (e.g. combinations resulting from pressing the AltGr key in combination with other keys, given that AltGr is present on Italian keyboard but on Windows most of such combinations do not output any characters by default).

Reagards.


UPDATE:

In support of one of the given responses which mentions that Italians will often append a diacritic to a vowel rather than including both as part of the same character when conventient to do so I have taken a few pictures in an Italian supermarket where two items have been spelled out using (a) an appended apostrophe/quote character acting as a grave accent and (b) an appended backquote acting as an acute accent:

enter image description here

enter image description here

I have also found the following samples of written text in Italy:

enter image description here

In the above picture the word being spelled out is qualità, but IMHO given that all letters are in uppercase, in order to make the text stand out even more, the person who wrote the sign decided to append an apostrophe at the end instead of a grave accent, so there are also marketing reasons.

Another example is the name of the chain of Italian supermarkets Alí (which has now been operating in the country for at least thirty years) and has its last vowel spelled with an acute accent (although, as mentioned, it is possible to use this as less common alternative to the grave accent on written i and u vowels appearing at the end of the word):

enter image description here


Finally, there is one finer point to mention. The people who came up with the Unicode standard, which is a very well known standard in the computer world and can be used to represent all characters, diacritics, etc... in every language in the world, has noticed that if Unicode is to truly represent languages internationally then the forward quote (') and backquote (`) found on all standard US ASCII keyboards (and where the forward quote has also been always also used as an apostrophe when composing English plaintext) need to be considered as separate characters from the apostrophe, grave accent, and acute accent, so much so that these five entities have received their own Unicode encodings (as standalone diacritics), with three types of double quotes (left, right, and neutral) also receiving their own characters:

U+0022  QUOTATION MARK  "
U+0027  APOSTROPHE  '
U+0060  GRAVE ACCENT    `
U+00B4  ACUTE ACCENT    ´
U+2018  LEFT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK  ‘
U+2019  RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK ’
U+201C  LEFT DOUBLE QUOTATION MARK  “
U+201D  RIGHT DOUBLE QUOTATION MARK ”
U+0302  COMBINING CIRCUMFLEX ACCENT ^

To type the above Unicode characters on Windows, hold down the Alt key, hit the + on the numeric keypad key, then type the hexadecimal digits (e.g. 201c), then release the Alt key.

If you simply cut and paste these Unicode characters, you will see that they are all different. So, my guess is, one could write the more proper variants:

  • à, è, é, ì (which in some texts appears consistently as í), ò, ó, ù (which in some texts appears consistently as ú)

or, alternatively, especially in those cases where for marketing purposes one may want the letters to stand out:

  • a` , e` , e´ , i` (or i´), o`, o´, u` (or u´)

and the latter form would not be entirely wrong, since, technically, the appended diacritics are grave and acute accents and not apostrophes (although I do admittedly think this would indeed look somewhat funny inside proper printed texts)!


Although my original question had to do with the use of Italian hardware keyboards on Windows, for completeness, it is also worth mentioning that on Windows users of US hardware keyboards can easily add support for entering Italian vowels with diacritics adding a US International keyboard in Control Panel -> Regional and Language Options -> Keyboards and Languages -> Change Keyboards... -> Add... -> English (United States) -> Keyboard -> Check US - International -> Apply -> OK, and the keyboards can then be switched from the switcher in the lower-right hand side of the windows taskbar. With this keyboard one can type:

  • Apostrophe (') then uppercase or lowercase vowel to produce a vowel with grave accent.
  • Backquote (`) then uppercase or lowercase vowel to produce a vowel with acute accent.
  • Apostrophe or backquote, then SPACE or any other character to produce an apostrophe or backquote on its own.

Regards.

  • 1
    About your photos: the second is actually an error for sure (illiterate employee?), the first instead could not be. There are some words that actually sounds like if they need a diacritic sign but indeed they need an apostrophe. Example: "po'" common abbreviation of "poco" needs the ' but sounds like "pò", this happens often with names like "tacle'". OT ended. – IssamTP Jan 16 '15 at 13:36
  • When you say the first instead could not be, the Italian meaning of the English the first could not be is è impossibile che il primo lo sia, whereas if you meant to say il primo invece non poteva esserlo then in English you should say on the other hand the first one couldn't have been a mistake. Which one of these are you trying to say? Anyways, I have updated my post, please leave another comment with some more details if you wish to clarify the issue. Thanks! – John Sonderson Jan 16 '15 at 21:29
  • Also, since in the comment above you've spelled tacle' with an apostrophe, you seem to be suggesting that tacle' is a contraction of some longer word, just like po' is a contraction of the longer word poco. So, what is tacle' an abbreviation of? To me, it sounds like it might be a loan word from French, but I could be wrong. Thanks! – John Sonderson Jan 16 '15 at 21:32
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    "the first instead could not be" -> "might not be", in italian: "Potrebbe non esserlo". Sorry, I'm studying a third Language and I get confused easily. – IssamTP Jan 16 '15 at 23:10
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    I'm suggesting that "tacle'" might actually be a surname (maybe the farmer). In Italy there are some surnames that lies in the limbo of accent or apostrophe; I personally know a guy whose surname ends in "..olò" and another "...ale'". – IssamTP Jan 16 '15 at 23:17
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Windows: I guess there's only one way to do it (corrections are welcome): ALT+Numerical keyboard combination. For example È is ALT+0200. Since the moment there are very few cases that requires diactritics uppercase and È is the most common, learning the combination will do the job easily even if most people will write: "E'". Programs like Word should correct it automatically (Writer from Libre Office does), while if you use other editors you should check it. If you're writing a web page, there's a code: È (È) or É (É) that you should use always anyway for compatibility.

Mac users have a combination that actually I can't remember (just open virtual keyboard).

Linux is an alien world to me, so I don't know.

  • The fact that Word and LibreOffice automatically convert these characters is quite useful, making ALT codes mostly necessary only when one needs to insert a word all of whose letters are uppercase, as could be needed when entering the title of a book or something similar. Thanks. – John Sonderson Jan 15 '15 at 14:31
  • On a mac (UK keyboard) one keeps pressed E or SHIFT-E and various accent options pop up. – Sklivvz Jan 15 '15 at 16:15
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    On Ubuntu (Linux) caps lock works also on èéàò etc. – Fabio F. Jan 15 '15 at 16:37
  • I'm not sure about it, but Word might have an autocapitalizer somewhere. Something like a function that will make all your text uppercase and viceversa. Check it. – IssamTP Jan 15 '15 at 17:44
  • @Skliwz, from your comment it appears that Mac keyboards work the same as Android keyboards in this regard. – John Sonderson Jan 15 '15 at 19:09
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Maybe I'm missing the point here, but if you set your language to US International, and I assume various others, this is easy.

Apostrophe (') then shift-E produces É.

Backquote (`) then shift-E produces È.

Various other combinations are available. I don't know about using the Italian language profile itself.

  • Interesting. I don't have a US keyboard but I know the positions of keys on such keyboard by heart, and so I've tried the US International keyboard out of curiosity. So, how would you enter something like `E` (including the backquotes) on such keyboard? Thanks. – John Sonderson Jan 15 '15 at 19:28
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    To get the literal key output instead of them serving as a modifier, you press it and then press something that isn't a vowel. Additionally, following them with a space doesn't insert a space. So e.g. backquote-then-space produces `. Make sense? – Rob Pridham Jan 15 '15 at 19:48
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    Also, and this will vary based on your settings (e.g. i60.tinypic.com/2yv2s0x.png ), you can switch between your usual keyboard and US International with a key combination. I use Ctrl-Shift, as you can see. This means you can effectively switch on easy access to accents, and then quickly go back to having your keyboard respond as per the actual keys. – Rob Pridham Jan 15 '15 at 19:59
  • Yes, I was aware of this. As a matter of fact I have several languages configured, and even make use of multiple keyboards for some of these languages and use them as needed. Thanks! – John Sonderson Jan 15 '15 at 20:01
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When using Linux you may use Compose Keys and map the right control, for example, to be the Compose key. This can be done under Keyboard/Keymapping settings tool of your Desktop Manager. Then you'll be able to use several default mappings as well as create your own set of key mapping. I was not able to use Compose Keys on OS/X although they work well on FreeBSD.

3

In my experience, I have found that many people simply resort to E' for È/É, A' for À, and so on. However, there are also some OS-specific tricks:

Windows: there is no easy way. Some may employ Alt combinations (just like Alt+125 prints }, there are Alt combinations for uppercase accented letters), some may use charmap, some may use word processors which auto-capitalize the first letter of sentences.

Mac: if you long-press a vowel, a menu appears, asking which letter to enter (eg. long-pressing E gives È, É, and possibly other characters). Alternatively, one may use the Character Map.

Linux, specifically Ubuntu: pressing è with Caps Lock on prints È, é (Shift+è) prints É, and so on.

Some also use the US International keyboard.

3

Wikipedia says

When using Microsoft Windows, the standard Italian keyboard layout does not allow one to write 100% correct Italian language, since it lacks capital accented vowels, and in particular the È key. The common workaround is writing E' (E followed by an apostrophe) instead, or relying on the auto-correction feature of several word processors when available.

As you seem to be interested in writing in Italian with that already has a different set of characters written on it, I recommend you to use a different layout where you have dead keys for diacritis, such as a Portuguese or Spanish layout.

PS: I cannot understand the reason, either. Specially when already providing an Alt Gr key with little use. (On Linux you will probably find many undocumented Alt Gr combinations adding extra characters).

  • 4
    Writing “E'” for “È” isn't a workaround, by any definition of “workaround”: is a different thing, and a wrong one. – DaG Jan 15 '15 at 16:09
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    @DaG Technical correctness isn't always proportional with popularity of usage :) – Ryccardo Jan 15 '15 at 17:48
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    As to undocumented Alt Gr combinations on Linux -- I'm not sure if it counts as "documentation", but on Ubuntu you can select "Keyboard layout chart" from the keyboard menu and see a graphical map of the keyboard showing characters available with various combinations of Alt Gr and Shift. On the Italian layout every possible combination is used for something, with Alt Gr combinations usually reserved for less common characters like ħ, ⅜, and ð. – Pont Jan 16 '15 at 12:02
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To enter diacritics in Windows I would suggest this keyboard layout. Certainly, you can create a "layout of your dream" :) with Microsoft Keyboard Layout Editor. However it's a bit boring, so I'd stay with the first option (which essentially is the product of such a generator).

With this layout you could enter lowercase diacritics with <right-alt>+<base_letter> and uppercase with <right-alt>+<shift>+<base letter>. I use this layout when I write Spanish (huh, ¡Español! :) or e.g. Ágil and found it the most conventient solution for Windows, especially when you need to do a lot of programmings, and thus have to enter "strings" or 'c'haracters all the time.

In Linux which is my primary desktop OS, I use the following xkb settings:

xkb_keymap {
    xkb_keycodes  { include "evdev+aliases(qwerty)" };
    xkb_types     { include "complete"      };
    xkb_compat    { include "complete"      };
    xkb_symbols   { include "pc+us(altgr-intl)+ru(ruu):2+inet(evdev)+altwin(left_meta_win)+group(lctrl_lshift_toggle)+terminate(ctrl_alt_bksp)+keypad(pointerkeys)+level3(caps_switch)"        };
    xkb_geometry  { include "pc(pc104)"     };
};

This allows me to write English with all ' (quotes), " (double-quotes), and ` (backticks) as usual plus diacritics like á or ¡ by pressing <CapsLock>+<base_letter> (it's more convenient than <alt>+<base_letter>, because <alt>+<letter> are often used for shortcuts). Also I have a completely separate layout for Cyrillic (Russian + sometimes Ukrainian), turned on and off by left <ctrl>+<shift>

2

Personally, I use the US-International layout, which has the benefit of using the Alt-Gr key to negate the need to switch between different keyboard layouts. It works correctly with Caps Lock and with shift (the letters are correctly converted to their uppercase equivalents). It also has the added advantage of not requiring you to learn new layouts when learning a new language with diacritics such as German or Spanish.

An example is given at this website:

Additional benefits of US-International are that it can type non-standard Latin characters in multiple languages (eg Spanish ñ, Nordic å, æ and ø, Old English þ, ð, German ä,ü,ö).

A drawback is the "dead key" feature of US-International, which is especially grating for programmers, who use the dead keys frequently in programming. To prevent this, you can download the custom keyboard layout here which disables dead keys.

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French here. We have accents as well, and academic rules state that you don't have to put accents on uppercase letters. While handwriting, it can be diffidult to put accents, as it was on machine typing. The exception was likely made due to the uselessness of accents on first-letter uppercase.

However, you have several ways to put accents. First is to let your word processor auto-upper the letter. Then you have the ctrl-shift-u shortcut. And finally, the alt codes.

  • On my version of Word CTRL+SHIFT+U is the same as CTRL+U and simply makes the text appear in bold. Where have you used that keyboard combination? – John Sonderson Jan 16 '15 at 15:24
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    I don't know French very well, but in Italian there are definite cases where you have to use upper-case accented letters, e.g. "È sera." – Alessandro Macilenti Feb 1 '15 at 21:57
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With an Italian keyboard, if you press alt+9, you get a combination that lets you insert a grave accent over any vowel (even uppercase); alt+8 gives you the acute accent. But most people don't bother; they just put an apostrophe after the uppercase vowel (especially E', to distinguish it from the conjunction.

  • 1
    I have an Italian keyboard and am running Windows 7. The 'Alt+8' and 'Alt+9' keys you mention don't produce any characters at all, and I couldn't find any information like that on the Internet. Excatly what keyboard and operating system are you using and do you have any custom keystroke combination output configured for your keyboard? Thanks. – John Sonderson Jan 18 '15 at 12:11
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The Spanish International keyboard for Windows allows both types of accents by either pressing the tilde key (and releasing) for àèìòùÀÈÌÒÙ or holding down the Alt key and the appropriate keys to produce áéíóúÁÉÍÓÚ. I find this is the simplest method for Italian and Spanish.

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