Setting up a Spanish keyboard in Windows Vista

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.

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12 Comment(s)

  1. Great guide, but it’s even easier. For typing Dutch, most computers in the Netherlands are set up with the US International layout. This way you can make all characters needed for Dutch, but also for Spanish.

    ctrl + alt + n gives ñ
    ‘ + any letter gives á, é, etc., etc.
    ” + u gives ü
    ctrl + alt + ? gives ¿
    ctrl + alt + ! gives ¡

    It’s that easy :).

    Ramses | Jun 4, 2008 | Reply

  2. @Ramses: I’ve never used the US International layout before, I will have to look into it.

    peter | Jun 9, 2008 | Reply

  3. Thanks for the guide. I had no idea that it was that simple, or that I could even do the accents, etc. without using those annoying alt combinations. Do you know if there’s any way to write the upside down exclamation mark?

    Kelsey | Jun 18, 2008 | Reply

  4. If you use US International: ctrl + alt + ?

    Ramses | Jun 18, 2008 | Reply

  5. @Kelsey: On a typical US keyboard you would hit shift and the equal sign to get the upside exclamation. This is the same key that produces the upside down question mark when unshifted.

    peter | Jun 18, 2008 | Reply

  6. Thanks a lot for this excellent walk through that is clear and precise

    Vicente | Nov 11, 2008 | Reply

  7. Very helpful!

    Julie | Sep 13, 2009 | Reply

  8. This is an incredibly useful article. It’s been such a pain when I want to write something in Spanish and have to go through the painstaking practice of manually putting in the proper characters.


    Nate | Dec 10, 2009 | Reply

  9. In case anyone else runs into the same problem I did… I set up my keyboard to use the US International keyboard, as Ramses suggests, and it all worked as he said, EXCEPT the ñ. When I pressed ctrl + alt + n, it kept just switching to draft view (in Word). So I had to go in and erase the existing keyboard shortcut for “normal view”. Once I did that, I could get the ñ.

    Katie | Mar 12, 2010 | Reply

  10. very helpful

    misha | May 27, 2010 | Reply

  11. I’m glad you wrote this article all those years ago. Today I was manually typing some Spanish over from a Sega Genesis game I was playing. I ran into a wall trying to type the letters with the accent mark above them. Then I remembered this blog post and set up my Spanish keyboard :)

    Thomas | Jul 12, 2011 | Reply

  12. Thank you for the thorough and easy to follow guide ,’-) ¡Ahora yo sè escribir en español también!

    Nevena | Mar 6, 2012 | Reply

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