Some people get in a terrible tangle when it comes to typing Esperanto with the correct accents; yet there is no need for this. If your computer and the software on it are less than about 10 years old then you probably already have everything you need.
Confusion arises because different people use different word-processing programs which tend to work in different ways. On top of this there are different operating systems (Windows, MacOS, Linux, Solaris and more) which all have their own peculiarities.
What I am about to describe will suit the typical Windows user though some of it will apply elsewhere. It’s worth noting also that although I’m concerned with Esperanto this information can also be useful for French, German and many other languages.
Whenever you are typing a language other than English, you will need to produce characters that don’t appear on the standard keyboard. Some of this is very easy; you can produce the French/Spanish accents “á é í ó ú” simply by holding down the AltGr key as you type the letter. AltGr 4 will produce a “€” sign. Some others are more tricky to memorise. For example, if you hold the Alt key and type 0228 on the number pad (not the numbers at the top of the keyboard) you will usually get “ä”.
So far so good; these are very old tricks that have been built into more or less every word-processing program. When it comes to more exotic languages (which Esperanto still is for everyone but us) you will find that different programs work in different ways, so I shall have to describe the programs that I know one by one.
The oldest program that does Esperanto is LocoScript, which as been around for at least 25 years. I won’t go into the pros and cons of LocoScript now; anyone who still has it will know that you can make a circumflex by typing CTRL U then the letter, and a breve (for the “ŭ”) by typing CTRL S then the letter. LocoScript has a huge range of accents and oddities, and you can use it to put any accent on any letter; even combinations that don’t really exist!
Almost as old, but still around and in many ways more convenient to use is WordPerfect. This can also do a big range of characters. To call up the menu of available characters type CTRL W. There are several pages of these; to get to the right one type 1,101. With a little persistence you can memorize the codes for particular letters, such as 1,101 for “ĉ”, 1,123 for “ĝ” and so on. Otherwise just pick the right one from the display.
Then we come to the programs that most people have, the Word family. If you haven’t got Word itself you may find you have the Windows Word Processor or at the very least good old bad old WordPad. With a little persuasion these can all produce Esperanto; but the necessary characters may be fairly well hidden. In Word, click on “Insert” (at the top) then, believe it or not, select “Symbol”. A display will appear, and if you scroll down to the “Latin Extended-A” set you will see the Esperanto characters and a lot of other weird and wonderful things. Click on the one you want, then on “Insert” (or hit ENTER) and Bob’s your uncle. Incidentally, if you often use exotic characters other than Esperanto, you can set shortcuts which will produce them quickly.
Rather than mess around with all this, there are two things you can do which will really get things done. The first is (if you haven’t already got it) to download Open Office. This is a very handy set of programs (Word-processing, Spreadsheet, Database and Presentations). If you’re already familiar with the Microsoft equivalents, you’ll soon master Open Office; and moving over from Word Perfect or learning from scratch is no great problem. You won’t lose texts you already have as Open Office can read Word and Word Perfect documents too. It can also make PDF documents if you like that sort of thing. In other words, it can’t sit up and beg or make you breakfast but it can do most other things. And it is completely free of charge which is a pretty good bargain. As well as Windows there are versions for Linux, MacOS and Solaris.
To see the available accents in Open Office Writer type ALT I then P (or click on “Insert” then “Special Character”). Click on the one you want and hit ENTER.
The finishing touch which will save you a lot of trouble is to get Esperanta Klavaro (EK! for short). You can find this at <www.esperanto.mv.ru/Ek/index.html> and a number of other places. Download only takes a few seconds and installation is simple. You can take the set-up exactly “as is” and it will work perfectly well. If you type in English as well (which most of us do) then it is a good idea to uncheck the “h” option on the set-up screen (you’ll see what I mean when you get there); if you don’t do this you’ll get unwanted “ŝ”s and “ĝ”s instead of “sh” and “gh” when typing in English.
Once EK! is running just type “cx” when you want “ĉ”, “gx” when you want “ĝ”, and so on, and the right letter will appear automatically. If you actually want “gx” just type “gxx” and all will be well. You can of course switch EK! on and off at will; the usual way of doing this is to type CTRL SPACE but you can set something else if you prefer. EK! does not work with WordPerfect or LocoScript but does work with anything Word/Windows and with Open Office. It also works with quite a few non-Windows programs (see www.biblbut.org where it works with Net Objects Fusion).
One last word on fonts (letter styles). If you like to use all sorts of fancy fonts such as decorative fonts, script fonts, Gothic styles, chancery script, uncials or special fonts you’ve downloaded from here and there, you’ll probably find they don’t have Esperanto characters, and possibly no accented letters at all. You will be perfectly safe with Times, Arial, Verdana, Comic Sans, Thorndale and a good many others. Try it and see. It is important to set your font before you begin typing. As readers of La Brita Esperantisto may remember, changing the font of a text after you have typed it may have unpredictable consequences.
So, once you’ve got Open Office (or Word) and EK! that’s all you need, for your own purposes. You can print what you’ve typed, you can send it as a letter, you can frame it and put it on the wall. If you want to send it to someone else, typically as an E-mail, or take part in an Esperanto message board or newsgroup,.there is a little more to be done, as will appear in my next article.