As you may have gathered by perusing this site a bit, we’re a family of American missionaries in France. Before living in France, speaking in French (still suspect) and typing in French, we were concerned only with English (or “American” to be more precise). Both my wife and I learned to touch type in America and English uses very few accents and special characters on their letters.
As we started to learn French and communicate in French, it became necessary to type in French. When typing in French it is necessary often to use accents on letters (and sometimes it even affects the pronunciation…but that’s another rant for another day). In our searching for the best way to accomplish accenting letters correctly we came across any number of kludgy solutions and solutions that only worked in certain applications. Finally, we came across “AllChars for Windows”. This is, in my opinion, a little-known but ideal solution for what we were trying to achieve: Keep our familiar QWERTY layout and easily add accents in any application in a Windows environment. AllChars delivers!
AllChars, written by Jeroen Laarhoven, is a system-resident (just put it in your Startup folder) freeware application that sits in your system tray and waits to see if you press the Ctrl key. If you do, it waits to see if the next key you press falls within its vast list of special key sequences. If it does, then it waits to see if the next key you press finishes one of its special key sequences. If so, it puts in the special character that represents that key sequence. Note, that you donot have to hold down three keys at one time. You type them in sequence. This is what I find the best about this program, additionally that it’s pretty intuitive in its combination of key sequences to produce the special characters. This allows me to type “QWERTY”-style as I’m used to, whether typing in French or English. It has, of course accents and special characters that would help in typing most all western languages.
You can also add your own key sequences and substitution results (which can be whole phrases…not just letters). So it becomes a Windows-wide “quick macro tool”. These can be user-defined sequences can be encrypted too, so that you can store password substitution in it as well (though there are better tools for that task out there).
The two problems I’ve had with AllChars are that Corel Draw applications (at least version 12) will crash when it’s enabled (you can enable and disable it easily). We have to disable AllChars to work in Corel. The other problem is that for some reason it rarely works with Microsoft Publisher (at least version 2000). Don’t know why.
For full details and to download, go to: http://allchars.zwolnet.com