Using MS-Windows (e.g. Windows 7 or Windows XP or Windows 8)
With a UK physical keyboard (one where the top row starts !"£$ rather than !@#$)
The secret is that you should use the control panel to set up Microsoft’s UK Extended keyboard.
(Or else the wonderful new Whacking Sandy keyboard if you want even more characters)
Microsoft’s Irish keyboard is also good for Scottish Gaelic, but has been superceded by UK Extended. Make sure, though, that you do not use Microsoft’s so-called “Gaelic” or “Scottish Gaelic” keyboard which is actually not nearly as good for typing Gaelic! It messes up the apostrophe key and is a total red herring.
Choose the following:
Start > Control Panel
Regional and Language
Keyboards and Languages
or perhaps, depending on your computer:
Start > Settings > Control Panel
Regional and Language Options
After this the fine detail gets a bit vague and depends on what you already have set up on your computer, but remember that what you are aiming for is:
United Kingdom Extended
and that you can safely get rid of any other keyboards unless you know for sure yourself that you need them.
You’ll probably see something like:
English (United Kingdom)
Click “Add...”. Then in the dropdown menu, scroll down til you reach your your input method, probably English (United Kingdom) as shown above, then under Keyboard click “Show more” if necessary, then choose “United Kingdom Extended” and click OK. Then make United Kingdom Extended the default keyboard (That’s the box above). The best thing then is to remove any other keyboards unless you know for sure that you need them, because otherwise you can switch to them by accident (pressing Ctrl+Shift is the culprit) and be left wondering why accents have stopped working.
Old instructions, just in case they are still relevant for older computers: Click on the word “Keyboard” to select it, and then click “Add...”. Then from the dropdown menu under “Keyboard layout/IME” choose “UK Extended” and click OK. Then the simplest thing to do is to remove the “United Kindom” keyboard altogether because you don’t need it.
After that you should be able to get accents all the vowels, both upper and lower case, by pressing and releasing the grave-accent key on the keyboard (just left of the ‘1’ key) and then typing the vowel. This will work in any program whatsoever - Word, Excel, Notepad, Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc - and is very quick and easy.
As a bonus, the UK Extended keyboard also gives you the accents required for typing many
other European languages - See this simulation.
If you have problems, give me a phone on 01471-888340 and I’ll try and talk you through it.
With a US physical keyboard (one where the top row starts !@#$ rather than !"£$)
If you go for Microsoft’s best offering you should proceed as above, but install the United States-International keyboard rather than Microsoft’s UK Extended
keyboard. You should also retain the US keyboard rather than deleting it, because, while the United States-International keyboard is very useful for typing all sorts of accented characters, it makes it more awkward to type ordinary apostrophes and various other characters so you probably won’t want to use it all the time.
Instead of United States-International, though, you are probably better going for John Cowan’s excellent Moby keyboard.