Typing French Diacritics on your Windows laptop – the easy way!

If you are an English to French translator it would be very handy to be able to type accented letter from your laptop keyboard. You may be familiar with the useful, but cumbersome, ALT+ codes. To enter a letter using this method you hold down the ALT key and type a number. For example, to type é you would use ALT + 0200. It’s hard to remember these four digit figures for each accented letter and they will work only with a numeric keypad, not the numbers across the top of your keyboard. Many laptops don’t have a numeric keyboard – so how can we get around that little problem?

TYPING ACUTE (aigu) LETTERS á é í ó ú

On Windows this is a doddle. Most of us are familiar with the ALT key but have you ever wondered what the enigmatic ALT GR key is for? Well, hold it down and punch an ‘e’. Et voilà … you get é. You can use the ALT GR key to produce the letters á é í ó ú.

TYPING GRAVE à è ì ò ù, UMLAUT ä ë ï ö ü and CIRCUMFLEX â ê î ô û and the CEDILLA ç

If you are using the US International keyboard layout you can use the so-called ‘dead’ key ‘ (which lives below the @ symbol on the UK keyboard). However, being a Brit I don’t want to switch to the US keyboard as it then messes up my £ and @ keys. So I created my own keyboard shortcuts using the handy free software AUTOHOTKEY.

It’s a little tricky to set up, but once it’s done you can type any accented letter (not just for French) using a keyboard shortcut of your choice. Download the application from www.autohotkey.com and install it.

The first time you run it, it will ask you if you want to create a sample script in your documents folder. All the keyboard shortcuts are stored as text snippets in this file.

If you then browse to your Documents folder you will see the script, AutoHotkey.ahk. Double clicking this file will load the script, which will be visible in your task bar, near the date and time on your PC. It’s the green square with the H.

Right clicking this icon brings up a menu from which you can chose ‘Edit this Script’.

The script will open in notepad. This is the file we can write our little bits of code into, to create our own shortcuts. If you never typed code before, don’t panic! It’s a piece of cake. A typical entry looks like this:

!a::
{
SendInput {à}
}
return

 

The first line means hold down the the ALT key, represented by the exclamation mark (!) and the letter ‘a’ to produce the output between the curly brackets: in this case the letter ‘a grave’, à. You just need to place a series of codes, one under the other, to produce the output you want. After adding code, or making a change, you need to go back to the right-click menu and select ‘Reload This Script’ to activate the code.

WHERE DO I GET THE ACCENTED CHARACTERS?

You can use the Character map built into windows to grab the characters you need to place between the braces {}. The character map will be hiding away under the START button, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools…….

Selecting a character from the Character Map to paste into your code.

An even easier way is to search for ‘e acute’, ‘a umlaut’ etc., in your favourite search engine or an even easier way is to copy the file I created below, which covers the accented letters you’ll need for French and a couple of extras. You can, of course, edit this to replace my keys with the ones you prefer. It doesn’t include the uppercase letters, which are much less frequently used, but you can add them if you wish. It will work with ANY character you can copy in there. You can also use the CONTROL key, in place of the ALT key by replacing the ! in the code with a ^ but be careful you don’t use of the existing windows CTL+ combinations, such as CTL+S, CTL+P and others that are being used by the system. You can combine the CTL and ALT keys so you have to hold both down, by using the !^ code. You write comments into the file by preceding them with a semi-colon e.g. ; this is a grave …

THE COMPLETE FILE containing  à è ì ò ù â ê î ô û ä ë ï ö ü ç

 

;DIACRITIC LETTERS

; a grave

!a::
{
SendInput {à}
}
return

;a circumflex

!z::
{
SendInput {â}
}
return

;a umlaut

!q::
{
SendInput {ä}
}
return

; e grave

!e::
{
SendInput {è}
}
return

;e circumflex

!d::
{
SendInput {ê}
}
return

;i grave

!i::
{
SendInput {ì}
}
return

;i circumflex

!k::
{
SendInput {î}
}
return

; o grave

!o::
{
SendInput {ò}
}
return

; o circumflex

!l::
{
SendInput {ô}
}
return

; o umlaut

![::
{
SendInput {ö}
}
return

; u grave

!u::
{
SendInput {ù}
}
return

; u circumflex

!j::
{
SendInput {û}
}
return

; c cedilla

!c::
{
SendInput {ç}
}
return

; e umlaut

!w::
{
SendInput {ë}
}
return

; u umlaut

!y::
{
SendInput {ü}
}
return

; i umlaut

!p::
{
SendInput {ï}
}
return

 

 

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Doing ‘Includes’ in WordPress

If you want to repeat a section of HTML code in your WordPress posts or pages you can either copy the code onto every page (yawn) or use a shortcut code (horray). A shortcut code acts in the same way as an ‘include’ in regular coding and pulls in a segment of HTML or text from an external file. In this case the external file is ‘functions.php’ in WordPress.

I recently used it to solve a mysterious ‘disappearing code’ problem in WordPress. A link for an image rollover would vanish from the code editor in a random and very annoying way. Replacing this rollover code with a shortcut code was a neat way of solving this problem.

Here’s how to do it.

In functions.php add the following.

<?
add_shortcode(‘quote’, ‘short_quote ‘);
# This line adds a shortcut code called ‘quote’ and a function called ‘short_quote’ – you can change these names to reflect your own code.

function short_quote () {
return ‘ put your text and code here ‘;
}
?>

Then in our WordPress posts and pages you can add the shortcode [quote] and this will display the code you added where it says ‘put your text and code here ‘.

And that’s it! I usually stick my custom functions at the end of the functions.php file so they are easy to find.

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Machine Translation has a way to go …..

I’ve recently been taking part in a project for an international translation company that are developing their own Machine Translation (MT) tool. Part of the job entailed post-editing segments translated by the machine. If you are a professional translator I wouldn’t break out into a sweat yet at the prospect of being unemployed any time soon.

Here are three of the most hilarious examples of machine translation that I had to deal with:

MT: …. derived from the famous nursery rhyme “Packing side-arms in the wood”.
Note: An imaginative translation by the robot for a simple “Taking a walk in the wood”. Have fun kids – but don’t use live ammo!

MT: I was a little septic tank to the idea of writing because i did not think that someone would solve my problem as quickly and efficiently.
Note: To be fair, the original French was misspelt - it should, of course, be ‘sceptical’.

MT: The employee of *****, contract killer Kostas has completely understood my problem
Note: It warms my cockles to know that a major I.T. company is employing ex-murderers to work on its help desk! The original French was simply ‘prénommé’, meaning that he ‘had the first name of’ …. how they managed to turn poor old Kosta into an employed assassin I can’t guess….

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Converting PDF documents to MSWord

Quite often I am required to convert a PDF document to Word format for a translator to work on. After much trial and error I found the most efficient way to do this was a FREE online application called NITRO PDF to WORD. You can upload and convert single PDF documents at no cost or, if you need to batch convert, you can buy their desktop application. Annoyingly, they don’t provide a price on the web site and ask to you to ‘request a  quote’.

The on-line version converts the file you upload and sends the resulting Word document to an email address you provide.

You can find the home page at http://www.pdftoword.com/

Convert PDF to Word

The NITRO PDF Home Page

 

I’ve tried this service on a few occasions for a PDF newsletter and the results have been excellent.

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Recovering an off-screen Window

If you have ever suffered the spooky problem of an application window flying off your laptop  screen and into cyberspace this will hep.

You may know what I mean – the application is running. You can see it in the taskbar, but you can’t see it on the screen. When you try to open the window it scurries off the screen. Follow the simple steps below to force the open window back onto your screen.

  1. Alt-tab to the active window
  2. Alt+Space to open the right-click menu
  3. Hit the M key
  4. Use the Arrow key
  5. Move your mouse – this should drag the active window back into view
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