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If I want to include a name with a diacritical mark, such as Zoë or François, I either have to open up a character map, or an online table of ASCII codes, to find the characters to cut and paste into my mail.

It would be much easier if there was some sort of drop down box of such characters which I could just grab when I needed them. (FWIW, I mainly use Firefox under Linux.)

What is the easiest way to include such non-English characters in GMail?

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I alternate between using Linux (mostly various flavours of Ubuntu on desktops) and MacOS; I often need to enter Swedish characters as I work there a lot. The way I handle it is to add an additional keyboard in the system settings, then I have an icon in the top menu bar of the main screen where I can select the keyboard I want to use. You can change it very easily this way.

Just watch out you don't leave it on the foreign language settings when you log out or it may make logging back in difficult if your password contains any of the remapped keys :)

Dragon NaturallySpeaking isn't free, or available natively on Linux AFAIK, which you say you are using, though I believe it can run under wine. There are speech recognition packages for linux like Julius though if you wanted to pursue this route (though it seems like overkill for this use case alone) OR you could also install Chromium version 11 and add --enable-speech-input to the end of the launcher.

  • Thanks - in the end I found that the Firefox add-on "Zombie Keys", which provides a drop down menu of accented characters, does the job. It would be nice if such a thing was made available in gmail by default, though. – Alasdair McAndrew Feb 2 '14 at 1:24
  • IMO, this is the way to go. It does not only allow you for accented characters, but pretty much everything that you would be writing in any input in any software you can do in GMail as well by allowing your keyboard to enter them. – Alpha Feb 8 '14 at 19:44
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If you can speak the language, you can use voice recognition. I personally use Dragon NaturallySpeaking when sending emails (French/English). It will take care of including non-English characters in Gmail.

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As of October 2012, GMail includes its own multilingual options which may help here.

If you tick "Enable input tools" under "Language" in Settings, you will be prompted to choose from a long list of languages and foreign keyboards. In your case, choose the French option with a keyboard symbol next to it.

Once this option is enabled, you'll see an extra icon next to the Settings cog in the top-right. In your case, this will have a picture of a keyboard on it, as you'll have chosen a virtual keyboard earlier.

When you click it, a virtual keyboard will be displayed from which you can enter foreign characters. Note that you'll need to have focus on the message box you'd normally type in before pressing keys on the virtual keyboard.

One catch - in my experience, turning on a foreign virtual keyboard also causes GMail to map your real keyboard to the foreign key-map. So QWERTY becomes AZERTY for France etc! Therefore, you'll probably want to turn off the virtual keyboard when you're not entering special characters! Thankfully this is a one-click operation - just click the X in the top-right of the virtual keyboard.

(Most of this information originally from http://uk.queryclick.com/seo-news/gmail-goes-multilingual/)

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I use the Chrome browser, and I added the "Accents & Diacritics for Gmail" Extension. It's very easy to use. It adds a small blue and red icon toward the upper right, near the settings triple dot. You have to remember to reset it sometimes by opening Gmail in a browser tab, then click on the Extension icon, then select a language (like French) and click "set language" (even if it was already set to that language). This will cause Gmail to reload. Once this happens, if you press the letter "e" three times, the "eee" will change to an accented e. If that wasn't the accent you wanted, press e two more times and the éee will change to a different accented e. Just keep typing e until the sort of e you want appears. Do the same with other characters that have accents in the selected language.

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