Sometimes you need to enter characters that are not found on your keyboard.
For now, let’s set aside questions of when you should use non-ASCII characters vs. html entities, Windows 1252 text masquerading as Latin 1 (ISO-8859-1), and all of those other character encoding issues. Let’s say, for instance,
you just need to enter the exact phrase “el violín” into a form on a web page.
How does one enter the second i with the acute accent via a US English keyboard?
In Microsoft Windows, you can use what are called “alt codes”:
you hold down the ALT key and then type in a 4 digit number representing the character.
You must enter the numbers via the number pad, not via the number keys across the top of the keyboard, so on a laptop this requires a bit of extra effort.
First you must figure out the proper 4 digit, decimal code for the character you wish to enter.
There are plenty of tables mapping these codes available online.
Here’s one on “Wikipedia.”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows1252
The number you want is the decimal number at the bottom of the character’s cell.
For our acute-accented-i, it is 237.
Then you must add zeros to the front of the number to make it exactly four digits.
So we now have 0237.
When you are ready to enter the character, hold down the ALT key and enter 0237 via the number pad.
When you release ALT, the character will appear.
On a laptop, to simulate the number pad, you may need to do something like: turn Num Lock ON and hold the Fn key (as well as the ALT key).
Steer clear of doing this with codes 0128 through 0159 if at all possible.
Those 32 codes represent different characters in the Windows set than they do in the similar ISO 8859-1 standard character set and the two are often confused.