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AZERTY layout used on a keyboard
AZERTY layout used on a keyboard

AZERTY (/əˈzɜːrti/) is a specific layout for the characters of the Latin alphabet on typewriter keys and computer keyboards. The layout takes its name from the first six letters to appear on the first row of alphabetical keys; that is, (A Z E R T Y). Similar to the QWERTZ layout, it is modelled on the English QWERTY layout. It is used in France and Belgium, and even Russia, although each of these countries has its own national variation on the layout. Luxembourg and Switzerland use the Swiss QWERTZ keyboard. Most of the residents of Quebec, the mainly French-speaking province of Canada, use a QWERTY keyboard that has been adapted to the French language such as the Multilingual Standard keyboard CAN/CSA Z243.200-92 which is stipulated by the government of Quebec and the Government of Canada.[1][2][3]

The competing layouts devised for French (e.g., the ZHJAY layout put forward in 1907, Claude Marsan's 1976 layout, the 2002 Dvorak-fr, and the 2005 BÉPO layout) have obtained only limited recognition, although the latter has been included in the 2019 French keyboard layout standard.[4]

History

ZHJAY keyboard layout for  typewriters, which failed to compete with the standard AZERTY layout.
ZHJAY keyboard layout for typewriters, which failed to compete with the standard AZERTY layout.

The AZERTY layout appeared in France in the last decade of the 19th century as a variation on American QWERTY typewriters. Its exact origin is unknown. At the start of the 20th century, the French "ZHJAY" layout, created by Albert Navarre, failed to break into the market partly because secretaries were already accustomed to the AZERTY layout and partly because it differed more from the QWERTY layout than does the AZERTY layout.[5][6]

In France, the AZERTY layout is the de facto norm for keyboards. In 1976, a QWERTY layout adapted to the French language was put forward, as an experimental standard (NF XP E55-060) by AFNOR. This standard made provision for a temporary adaptation period during which the letters A, Q, Z and W could be positioned as in the traditional AZERTY layout.

In January 2016, the French Culture Ministry has looked to replace the industrial AZERTY layouts with one that will allow a better typing of French and other languages.[7] A standard was published by the French national organization for standardization in 2019.[8]

The AZERTY layout is used on Belgian keyboards, although some non-alphabetic symbols are positioned differently.

General information regarding AZERTY keyboards

AZERTY layout for Windows keyboards
AZERTY layout for Windows keyboards
AZERTY layout for laptops
AZERTY layout for laptops

There are two key details:

Dead keys

A dead key serves to modify the appearance of the next character to be typed on the keyboard. Dead keys are mainly used to generate accents (or diacritics) on vowels.

Circumflex accent

A circumflex accent can be generated by first striking the ^ key (located to the right of P in most AZERTY layouts), then the vowel requiring the accent (with the exception of y). For example, pressing '^' then 'a' produces 'â'.

Diaeresis

A diaresis can be generated by striking the ¨ key (in most AZERTY layouts, it is generated by combining the Maj + ^ keys), then the vowel requiring the accent. For example, pressing '¨' then 'a' produces 'ä'.

Grave accent

The grave accent can be generated by striking the ` key (in the French AZERTY layout it is located to the right of the "ù" key) on Macintosh keyboards, while on PC-type keyboards it can be generated by using the combination Alt Gr+è.

In the Belgian AZERTY layout, the ' key is generated by the combination Alt Gr+μ (the μ key is located to the right of the ù key on Belgian AZERTY keyboards) then the key for the vowel requiring the accent.

Note that the grave-accented letters à è ù (and the acute-accented é), which are part of French orthography, have their own separate keys. Dead-grave and dead-acute (and dead-tilde) would mostly be reserved to "foreign" letters such as Italian ò, Spanish á í ó ú ñ, Portuguese ã õ, etc., or for accented capital letters (which are not present precomposed in the layout).

Acute accent

The acute accent is available under Windows by the use of Alt + a, then the vowel requiring the accent. é can be generated using its own key. For Linux users, it can be generated using Caps Lock + é then the vowel. On a Macintosh AZERTY keyboard, the acute accent is generated by a combination of the Alt + Maj + &, keys, followed by the vowel.

In the Belgian AZERTY layout, it can be generated by a combination of Alt Gr+ù, then the vowel.

It is not available in the French layout on Windows.

Tilde

The tilde is available under Windows by using a combination of the Alt Gr+é keys, followed by the letter requiring the tilde.

On Macs, the "ñ" can be obtained by the combination of Alt + N keys, followed by the N key.

In the Belgian AZERTY layout, it can be generated by a combination of Alt Gr+=.

Alt key

Main article: Alt code

With some operating systems, the Alt key generates characters by means of their individual codes. In order to obtain characters, the Alt key must be pressed and held down while typing the relevant code into the numeric keypad.

On Linux, the alt key gives direct access to French language special characters. The ligatures œ and æ can be keyed in by using either Alt Gr+o or Alt Gr+a respectively, in the fr-oss keyboard layout; their upper case equivalents can be generated using the same key combinations plus the French Shift key. Other useful punctuation symbols, such as , , or can be more easily accessed in the same way.

Guillemets "«" and "»"

Main article: Guillemet

Also called angle quotes, French quotation marks, double chevrons are polylines pointed like arrows (« or »), sometimes forming a complementary set of punctuation marks used as a form of quotation mark.

In Windows: 
« Alt + 0171 Alt + 7598 Alt + 174 Alt + 686
» Alt + 0187 Alt + 7599 Alt + 175 Alt + 687

With a US International Keyboard and corresponding layout, Alt Gr+[ and Alt Gr+] can also be used. The characters are standard on French Canadian keyboards and some others.

Macintosh users can type "«" as ⌥ Opt+\ and "»" as ⌥ Opt+⇧ Shift+\. (This applies to all English-language keyboard layouts supplied with the operating system, e.g. "Australian", "British", "Canadian", "Irish", "Irish Extended", "U.S." and "U.S. Extended". Other language layouts may differ.) In French-language keyboard layouts ⌥ Opt+7 and ⌥ Opt+⇧ Shift+7 can be used. On Nordic keyboards, ⌥ Opt+⇧ Shift+v for "«", and ⌥ Opt+⇧ Shift+b for "»", can be used.

For users of Unix-like operating systems running the X Window System, creation of the guillemet depends on a number of factors including the keyboard layout that is in effect. For example, with US International Keyboard layout selected a user would type Alt Gr+[ for "«" and Alt Gr+] for "»". On some configurations they can be written by typing "«" as Alt Gr+z and "»" as Alt Gr+x. With the compose key, press Compose+<+< and Compose+>+>. Additionally with the ibus input method framework enabled, users may enter these characters into those applications that accept it by using Ctrl+⇧ Shift+U followed by their Unicode code points: either AB or BB, respectively.

In Microsoft Office applications, typing the US quotation mark (on the 3 key) will produce either a left Guillemet "«" or right Guillemet "»" based on the spacing.

In France

AZERTY under Linux

In X11, the window system common to many flavors of UNIX, the keyboard interface is completely configurable allowing each user to assign different functions to each key in line with their personal preferences. For example, specific combinations of Alt Gr key could be assigned to many other characters.

Layout of the French keyboard under Microsoft Windows

Missing elements

It is possible to fill in these gaps by installing a keyboard driver that has been specially enriched for the French language.[9]

One can also use WinCompose in order to easily write all characters, the character Ç could be written by pressing ⎄ Compose , C or the character « with ⎄ Compose < <, there is also an option to allow to write accentuated capitals with ⇪ Caps Lock such that Ç is writable with ⇪ Caps Lock ç.

Some word-processing software packages sometimes address some of these gaps. The non-breaking space can be obtained by pressing the Ctrl key, followed by a space, in a word-processing package such as OpenOffice.org Writer, or by using Ctrl + Maj [Caps] + Espace [Spacebar] in Microsoft Word.

Apart from these gaps, the French AZERTY layout has some strange features which are still present in the Microsoft Windows Vista operating system:

Industrial layouts and French standard

Azerty NFZ71-300/A
Azerty NFZ71-300/A

In January 2016, the French Ministry of Culture, which is in charge of language affairs, expressed a will to offer an alternative to the AZERTY layouts traditionally proposed by the industry. The new layout would have to provide full coverage of the symbols required by French spelling (including accented capitals such as É) as well as other languages of France and European languages written with the Latin alphabet.[7][10] The project, led by the French national organization for standardization AFNOR, released both this improved AZERTY and a BÉPO layout. Initially due in January 2018, the standard was released in April 2019.[8]

The layout keeps the same placement for the 26 Latin letters and 10 digits, but moves others (such as some accented letters and punctuation signs), while it adds a range of other symbols (accessible with Shift, AltGr). There is easy access to guillemets « » (French quotes), accented capital letters: À, É, Ç, as well as Œ/œ, Æ/æ, which was not possible before on basic AZERTY (Windows' AZERTY), previously alt codes were required.

It allows typing words in many languages using dead keys, which are in blue on the picture, to access a variety of diacritics. A few mathematics symbols have also been added.

A website for the new AZERTY layout has been created, offering information, visuals of the changes, links to drivers to install the layout and various other resources.

Differences between the Belgian and French layouts of the AZERTY keyboard

AZERTY layout used in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium, it is the same of French speaking except the labels on the keys
AZERTY layout used in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium, it is the same of French speaking except the labels on the keys
AZERTY layout used in the French speaking part of Belgium, it is the same of Dutch speaking except the labels on the keys
AZERTY layout used in the French speaking part of Belgium, it is the same of Dutch speaking except the labels on the keys
Same Belgian keyboard under Linux (Ubuntu 9.10)
Same Belgian keyboard under Linux (Ubuntu 9.10)

The Belgian AZERTY keyboard allows for the placing of accents on vowels without recourse to encoding via the Alt key + code. This is made possible by the provision of dead keys for each type of accent: ^ ¨ ´ ` (the last two being generated by a combination of Alt Gr+ù and μ respectively).

To recap the list of different keys from left to right and from top to bottom:

The description partially dead means that pressing the key in question sometimes generates the desired symbol directly, but that at least one of the symbols represented on the key will only appear after a second key has been pressed. In order to obtain a symbol in isolation, the space bar must be pressed, otherwise a vowel should be pressed to generate the required accented form.

The other keys are identical, even though traditionally the names of special keys are printed on them in English. This is because Belgium is predominantly bilingual (French-Dutch) and officially trilingual (a third language, German, is spoken in the East Cantons).

The key to the right of 0 on the numeric keypad corresponds either to the full stop or to the comma (which is why there are two distinct keyboard drivers under Windows).

The AZERTY keyboard as used in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium uses the name shift instead of maj and caps lock instead of verr maj.

Variants

The AZERTY layout is used in France, Belgium and some African countries. It differs from the QWERTY layout thus:

The French and Belgian AZERTY keyboards also have special characters used in the French and Dutch language, such as é, è, ê, ï, ë, ... and other characters such as &, ", ', and ç (only for French), some located under the numbers and some with combinations of keys.

French

French keyboard layout
French keyboard layout

Some French people use the Canadian Multilingual standard keyboard.

The Portuguese (Portugal) keyboard layout may also be preferred, as it provides all the French diacritics (acute, grave, diaeresis, circumflex, cedilla, including on capital letters that are not all possible with an industrial French layouts, and also the French quotation marks or guillemets, «»). Furthermore, its dead-letter option for all the diacritical keys allows for easy input of all the possibilities in French and many other languages (áàäãâéèëêíìïîñóòöõôúùüû). 'ç' is, however, a separate key (but only as a lowercase letter in the basic French standard layout).

The US-International keyboard may also used for the same reason (notably by programmers as it allows easier input of ASCII characters, provided that they are trained to a QWERTY layout rather than the most common AZERTY layouts available in most computer shops, including online). An alternative (extremely rarely found) to AZERTY is the Bépo layout : it's not available on any notebook, but may be used by adding an external keyboard, bought separately from some specialized shops.

However, the most common layouts available as an option in computer shops and that are not using the standard French layout is still the basic US layout, plus the QWERTY-based layouts used for Chinese and Vietnamese (that you can find in Parisian shops where there's a large enough Asian community, many of these shops being owned by people of Chinese or South-East Asian origin), or Arabic. Computer providers have also sold computers with the Belgian French AZERTY layout to French universities and schools. Most standard national layouts used in the world, and all layouts used in the European Union can easily be bought in online shops within the European Union as the old standard French keyboard is no longer mandatory[citation needed].

Apple

Apple French keyboard layout
Apple French keyboard layout

Apple's keyboards use the same AZERTY layout in both France and Belgium.[11] Based on the Belgian version, the most notable differences are the locations for the @-sign and €-sign, among others. MacOS also supports the standard French layout for non-Apple keyboards; the standard Belgian layout, however, is available through third-party support only.[12]

Arabic

See also: Keyboard layout § Arabic, and Arabic keyboard

There is an Arabic variant of the AZERTY keyboard.[13] It is especially used in the African countries Algeria, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia and in Arab communities in French-speaking countries to be able to type both in Arabic and in French.

Tamazight (Berber)

Tamazight (Berber) keyboard layout for Latin script
Tamazight (Berber) keyboard layout for Latin script
Tamazight (International) keyboard layout
Tamazight (International) keyboard layout

The Tamazight (Latin) standards-compliant layout is optimised for a wide range of Tamazight (Berber) language variants – including Tuareg variants – rather than French, though French can still be typed quickly. It installs as "Tamazight_L" and can be used both on the French locale and with Tamazight locales.

QWERTY and QWERTZ adaptations of the layout are available for the physical keyboards used by major Amazigh (Berber) communities around the world.

Other layouts exist for closer backwards compatibility with the French layout. They are non-standards-compliant but convenient, allowing typing in Tifinagh script without switching layout:

All the above layouts were designed by the Universal Amazigh Keyboard Project and are available from there.[14]

Vietnamese

Old Vietnamese (Typewriter Vietnamese) keyboard layout
Old Vietnamese (Typewriter Vietnamese) keyboard layout

There is also a Vietnamese variant of the AZERTY keyboard.[15] It was especially used in Vietnamese typewriters made until 1980s.

Wolof

Wolof keyboards also use AZERTY and are supported by Microsoft Windows (Windows 7 and later only).[16]

See also

References

  1. ^ Office québécois de la langue française, Le clavier de votre ordinateur est-il normalisé?.
  2. ^ Services gouvernementaux du Québec, Standard sur le clavier québécois Archived 2019-12-05 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Alain LaBonté, 2001, FAQ. La démystification du clavier québécois (norme CAN/CSA Z243.200-92) Archived 2011-07-13 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Clavier français : Tout sur la nouvelle norme facilitant l'écriture du français". 2 April 2019.
  5. ^ Martin, Henri-Jean (1995). The history and power of writing. University of Chicago Press. p. 608. ISBN 0-226-50836-6.
  6. ^ Gardey, Delphine (1998). "La standardisation d'une pratique technique: la dactylographie (1883–1930)". Réseaux. 16 (87): 75–103. doi:10.3406/reso.1998.3163.
  7. ^ a b "France wants to fix the terrible AZERTY keyboard". Engadget. Retrieved 2016-01-26.
  8. ^ a b "French keyboard: a voluntary standard to make typing French easier". afnor. 5 April 2019.
  9. ^ Denis Liégeois, pilote de clavier azerty enrichi pour Windows Archived 2011-03-14 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ Schofield, Hugh (21 January 2016). "Inside Europe Blog: Is France's unloved AZERTY keyboard heading for the scrapheap?". BBC News Online. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  11. ^ "How to identify keyboard localizations". Apple Inc. Retrieved 2015-04-22.
  12. ^ "Belgian (Non-Apple) Keyboard Layout". El Tramo. Retrieved 2013-11-16.
  13. ^ "Arabic French 102 Keyboard Layout". Microsoft. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  14. ^ "SourceForge.net: Anasiw amaziɣ ameɣradan – Project Web Hosting – Open Source Software". sourceforge.net.
  15. ^ Duncan, John William (2005-12-22), VietNamese Typewriter, retrieved 2020-07-11
  16. ^ "Microsoft Keyboard Layouts". Microsoft. Archived from the original on 13 July 2017. Retrieved 26 May 2017.