In English, there are no accent marks on top of the letters. However, in other alphabetical languages, many have accent marks, or diacritical marks. In some occasions, it is necessary to use some foreign words in English text, mostly names for places or people, which contains accent-marked letters.
Most of the time, it is OK to use the non-marked counterpart to replace the accented letters. However, in some special occasions, it is necessary to use the accent marks. I met such occasions before, and to make things easy next time, I take the trouble to write down how to input those accent-marks in HTML.
In basic ASCII character set, there is no accent marked letters. Because a byte has eight bits, which can encode 256 characters, so computer system vendors extended the basic ASCII character set to incorporate those accented-marked letters, which are necessary for some European languages. However, unlike the basic ASCII character set, which has a national standard, every vendor respected it, the extended characters enjoys no such a widely accepted standard. So different vendors can use different code to encode the same extended character. Fortunately, for HTML, there is a standard, dubbed "ISO-8859-1", which standardizes the accented marks. This "ISO-8859-1" is widely adopted in WWW. Even the underlining computer hardware use different ways for those extended characters, in the web browsers, if the web page use the right code, the browsers will display the character correctly.
HTML uses plain ASCII characters, so to input an accented letter, you must use a markup string called "entity". There are two kinds of entities, numerical or letter. For example, if I want to input an umlaut o (o with two dots on top of it), for the numerical entity, I need to type "ö" otherwise I can type "ö". The "&" and ";" are used to delimit the entity. So "&", like "<", and ">", has special meaning in HTML. Quotation marks and semicolons are special, they are not required to be escaped. Usually, the browser can distinguish whether they are used literally or not.
There are five accent marks, they are:
acute, which can be marked on top of A, E, I, O, U, Y, and their lower case counterparts, a, e, i, o, u, y, rendering Á, É, Í, Ó, Ú, Ý, á, é, í, ó, ú, ý;
grave, marked on top of A, E, I, O, U and a, e, i, o, u, rendering À, È, Ì, Ò, Ù, à, è, ì, ò, ù;
umlaut, or called dieresis, marked on top of A, E, I, O, U and a, e, i, o, u, y, rendering Ä, Ë, Ï, Ö, Ü, ä, ë, ï, ö, ü, ÿ;
circumflex, or hats, on top of A, E, I, O, U and a, e, i, o, u, rendering Â, Ê, Î, Ô, Û, â, ê, î, ô, û;
at last, the cedilla, ç (capital Ç), which is not an accented-marked letter, but since it is used quite often, I describe it here. It usually pronounced as an "s".
Since I use three operating systems, I will describe how to input the marks in each plat form, along with HTML.
It is necessary to define what is a dead key here. When you press a dead key, there is nothing displayed on the screen, however, when you type the next character, the accent mark will appear on top the second character. For example, on the Mac, I type option+e, nothing appears. However, when I then type a letter, say, a, on the screen, an acute mark will appear on top of the a. The dead key method to input accent marks are used in all three platforms: Mac, Windows, and Palm (with GoType keyboard).
So, in Mac, to input the accent-marked letters, you first press the dead key (usually a key combination involves the option key), then the letter. Here is the list of the dead keys:
grave, option+` (back quote key)
Cedilla is not an accent-marked letter, you just press option+c (or C for capital cedilla).
If you want to use the dead key method in Windows, you must switch to the "US-International" keyboard configuration, otherwise you can only use Char map or the Alt and numeric keypad method, because the standard US 101 keyboard doesn't support the dead key method.
A word for the US-standard keyboard setting: You can use the "Character Map" program to copy and paste the characters, the Mac equivalent of "Character Map" is "Key Caps". They all come with the operating system, and the usage is well documented in the help systems.
Another way to input special characters using the standard US keyboard with Windows OS: press the Alt key, then type the character number (don't forget the leading zero) with the Num Lock on. Of course, you need to remember the character numbers, or you need a reference sheet. If you don't have a reference sheet or you don't remember the character number, Character Map is always handy.
The dead keys (only in US-International keyboard setting):
acute: ' (apostrophe)
grave: ` (back quote)
circumflex: ^ (shift+number 6)
umlaut: " (double quote)
tilde: ~ (tilde key)
Under the US-International keyboard setting, use right Alt key + c (or C) to input cedilla.
GoType keyboard also uses dead key method. It is similar to Mac dead keys:
grave: Alt+` (back quote)
cedilla: Alt+c (or C)
A reminder: don't forget the ending semicolon in the entities, it is necessary to delimit the end of the entities.
acute: &xacute; x is the one of A, E, I, O, U, Y or a, e, i, o, u, y;
grave: &xgrave; x is one of A, E, I, O, U or a, e, i, o, u;
circumflux: ◯ x is one of A, E, I, O, U or a, e, i, o, u;
umlaut: &xuml; x is one of A, E, I, O, U or a, e, i, o, u, y;
tilde: &xtilde; x is one of A, N, O or a, n, o;
cedilla: &xcedil; x is one of C or c.
August 18, 2003
It seems there is a bug in my Palm. When I want to input an tilde on top of A, I should press the dead key Alt+n, then followed by A. However, when I do this, I only get an umlaut A. There must be something wrong in the keyboard driver. My driver is GoType driver version 1.6. Maybe LandWare, the vendor, had already fixed this bug, all I need to do is to download from their web site. However, since I don't input tilde A very often, so I think I can live with this bug. You can still input the tilde A with graffiti or with the on-screen keyboard.
A curiosity: suppose there is no umlaut Y, but I can input on my Palm and in HTML. BTW, my Palm OS is version 3.3. No big deal, anyway.
August 21, 2003
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