Esperanto and your Windows computer

Using Unicode on your computer


Displaying accented letters

Modern Windows computers use Unicode, a coding system that makes it possible to use the written characters of any of the world’s languages.

If you can see the following words with their proper Esperanto accented letters, your computer is Unicode-compliant.

Eĥoŝanĝo ĉiuĵaŭde

[If not, it may be necessary for you to select the appropriate encoding system. Go to View | Encoding, and experiment.]

So much for reading material written in Esperanto. What about writing documents in Esperanto with the proper accented letters? For this, you need a Unicode-compliant word processor. The best known is Word, for which you must have version Word 97 or later.

Inputting accented letters

Your keyboard does not have the special Esperanto letters. So how can you input them?

There are various ways of inputting characters not found on the keyboard.


The simplest way is:

  1. go to Insert | Symbol
  2. choose Font: (normal text)
  3. find the accented letter you want in the drop-down box and choose it
  4. do Insert, Close


Another way is to assign a special keystroke combination to each accented letter. You define this with a shortcut. For example, to assign the combination Alt + c for the letter ĉ, proceed as follows:

  1. open a document in Word
  2. select a font, for example Times New Roman
  3. (as 1,2,3 above)
  4. Shortcut Key
  5. (press Alt + c)
  6. Assign, Close, Close.

Proceed likewise for the other accented letters you need. From then on, when you use Word, these key combinations will call up the accented letters: pressing Alt and c together will call up ĉ. This is the method I use myself.


Yet another possibility in Word exploits AutoCorrect. After steps 1,2,3 in A above, continue as follows:

  1. AutoCorrect
  2. Replace (\c\, for example)
  3. With (ĉ should already appear here)
  4. Replace
  5. OK

Do the same for the other accented letters. Now, typing \c\ will automatically call up ĉ. So that it will work in all positions in a word, not just at the end, your special code (in our example, \c\) must end in a character that is neither a letter nor a figure, so for example #, \, or &.


Unfortunately, these methods of typing accented letters do not work in Outlook Express, PowerPoint, and other Microsoft Office programs. The way round this is to write your text in Word and then copy-and-paste it into Outlook Express (etc). In Outlook Express, you may need to change the settings as follows: View, Encoding, Unicode; Tools, Options, Send, HTML.

Another possibility is that of using a special program to redefine your keyboard. One called EK, by Jurij Finkel, has been widely recommended. Another, with more elaborate potential, is EsperScript.

Well done Microsoft (?!)

What this means is that Microsoft has supplied Esperanto users with a solution to the problem of how to create documents that contain accented letters. This was actually a by-product of solving the same problem for a large number of other languages of the world. Thanks, Microsoft! What a pity that it remains virtually undocumented in the many how-to books about using Word.

John Wells

2004 08 10