Setting up a Spanish keyboard in Windows Vista

This post was originally posted on Babelhut.

Can’t figure out how to type “¿Dónde está el baño?” on your keyboard? If you use Windows Vista, this article will tell you how to setup a Spanish keyboard so that you can type all those characters that aren’t standard on your keyboard. Users of older versions of Windows (XP, 2000, etc) won’t be able to use the directions exactly, but you should be able to get a general idea of how to setup a Spanish keyboard.

First open up your Control Panel. The Control Panel can be found in your Start menu. Depending on your setup, the Control Panel should display in one of two views: Classic View or Home View.

Control Panel Classic View Control Panel Home View

In the Classic View, you will want to open “Regional and Language Options.” In Home View, you need to click on the “Change keyboards or other input methods” link underneath “Clock, Language, and Region.” A window titled “Regional and Language Options” should have appeared no matter which view you were using. Click on the “Keyboards and Languages” tab.

Keyboards and Languages Tab

Click on the “Change Keyboards” button. A window titled “Text Services and Input Languages” should appear.

Text Services and Input Languages

Click on the “Add” button. You should see the “Add Input Language” window.

Add Input Language

Dig through the list of keyboards and check the box for the Spanish keyboard variant you’re looking for. I’m personally most familiar with the Latin American keyboard, so I chose “Spanish (Mexico)” and “Latin American,” though I could have found this same layout under “Spanish (United States)” or any of the Spanish-speaking South American countries. If you’re not sure what keyboard to use, you can select one and click the “Preview” button to see what the keyboard looks like. This is also useful even if you know which layout to use because you will need to learn where some of the keys are. When you’re done looking at the preview, click the “Close” button.

Latin American Keyboard Preview

In the end, if you can’t decide what keyboard to use and you plan on visiting a Spanish-speaking country, learn and use the keyboard layout of that country. Click “Ok” to close the “Add Keyboard Dialog.” You should be back to the “Text Services and Input Languages” window. Click on the “Advanced Key Settings” tab.

Advanced Key Settings

Make note of the default key combination to switch keyboard layouts. The default is Left Alt + Shift, but you may change this to whatever you like. Click “Ok” to close the window. Note that you should now have a little “EN” in your taskbar, assuming you have a US English keyboard. If you have a different keyboard you may see some other two letter abbreviation.

Taskbar with “EN”

Now hit the key combination you chose to switch keyboards, or Left Alt and Shift if you kept the default. Your taskbar should now display “ES” to show that you are now using a Spanish keyboard.

Taskbar with “ES”

Your keyboard is now setup! Looking at the keyboard preview from earlier, it’s obvious how to type “Ñ” and “¿”, but how do you type “áéíóú”? All you have to do is type the key for the accent mark, which is the key to the right of “P” on the Latin American keyboard, followed by the key for the letter you wish to put the accent above.

The process is similar if you wish to setup a keyboard for other languages. I have followed the same process to setup the Greek keyboard in Windows. Wikipedia also has a good article on keyboard layouts , which displays the keyboard layout for many different languages.

I’m also a Linux user, and I dual-boot Windows Vista and Linux, working primarily in Linux using KDE. If there is interest I may also cover this subject in KDE.