How to type special characters in Spanish! (¡, ¿, ñ, é and more)

While learning or writing Spanish, we often need to type special characters in Spanish like ‘¡’, ‘¿’, ñ, é, and so on!

Today, at CultureAlley, we talk about ways to type these characters and symbols for both Mac and Windows users:

Mac Users:

Mac users are lucky because it is relatively easy to type special characters and symbols on a Mac. Unlike Windows, the Mac operating systems do not require you to install a special keyboard. Here’s how you can type special characters in Spanish on a Mac:

I) Symbols: Spanish uses inverted punctuation marks (¿, ¡) extensively to communicate the tone of the sentence. To type the inverted punctuation marks follow these rule:

¡ = Option + 1
¿ Option + shift + ?

II) Special characters

1) Accents (á, é, í, ó, and ú)
To get accents on the Mac, hold down the Option key, and while holding it down, type the letter e; then release those keys and type the letter that you want the accent to appear on:

á = Option + e, then a;  Á = Option + e, then shift + a
é = Option + e, then e; É = Option + e, then shift + a
í = Option + e, then i; Í = Option + e, then shift + a
ó = Option + e, then o; Ó = Option + e, then shift + a
ú = Option + e, then u; Ú = Option + e, then shift + a

2) ñ
Ñ is a letter of the modern Latin alphabet, formed by an N with a diacritical tilde. For typing ñ, hold down the Option key while you type the n; release and type n again.

ñ = Option + n, then n; Ñ = Option + n, then shift + n

3) ü
To place the diaeresis over the u, hold down the Option key while pressing the u key; release and type u again.

ü = Option + u, then u, Ú = Option + e, then shift + u

References: Macintosh: Typing Special Characters and Symbols (

Windows Users

If you’re using Microsoft Windows, the best way to type Spanish characters – is to install a software that configures your keyboards with an international character set. (Also useful if learning German, French or most other European languages)

Installing the international keyboard : Windows XP:

  1. Click on the ‘Start’ menu/button -> Go to ‘Control Panel’
  2. Click on: ‘Regional and Language Options’ icon – a new window will appear
  3. Select the ‘Languages’ tab
  4. Click the ‘Details’ button
  5. Under ‘Installed Services’, click ‘Add’ – a new window will appear
  6. Select the United States -International option
    In the pull-down menu, select United States-International as the default language.
  7. Click OK
  8. Click Apply

Installing the international keyboard in Windows Vista: The method is very similar to that for Windows XP.

  1. Go to Start menu–>Control Panel–>Clock,
  2. Under : Language, Region–>Click on ‘Change Keyboards’
  3. A new window appears: Click the Change Keyboards button
  4. A new window appears: Click the ‘Add’ button
  5. Select United States-International keyboard
  6. Click OK
  7. From drop down menu (Default Input Language) select United States International

Typing on International keyboard:
To type the special characters, two steps are required:
á = ‘ + a
é = ‘ + e
í = ‘ + i
ó = ‘ + o
ú = ‘ + u
ñ = ~ + n
ü = ” + u

To type the special punctuation characters, hold down on the Alt key while you type the appropriate punctuation mark. Be careful as at times, only one of the two Alt keys will work for this.
¡ = Alt (hold) + !
¿ = Alt (hold) + ?

If you don’t want to use the international keyboard:
Using the numeric keypad: Windows allows the user to type any available character by holding down one of the Alt keys while typing in a numeric code on the numeric pad. Here is a list of all codes used for special characters and symbols.
Simply type these numbers on the numeric keypad (numpad) (not the numbers on the main part of the keyboard) while holding down an Alt key:

  1. á — 0225
  2. Á — 0193
  3. é — 0233
  4. É — 0201
  5. í — 0237
  6. Í — 0205
  7. ñ — 0241
  8. Ñ — 0209
  9. ó — 0243
  10. Ó — 0211
  11. ú — 0250
  12. Ú — 0218
  13. ü — 0252
  14. Ü — 0220
  15. ¿ — 0191

Happy typing! :)

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