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Adobe FrameMaker: Adding Accented Characters (Diacritics)

By Barb Binder

According to Wikipedia, a diacritic (also called a diacritical mark, point, or sign), is a small sign added to a letter to alter pronunciation or distinguish between similar words. To put it simply, I’m talking about inserting the accents over the letters found in so many foreign languages. (i.e., café or crêpe ).

For those of us working primarily in English, we don’t have to worry too much about accents. But if you publish documents Western European words and phrases, you better know how to add the accent marks. There are two ways to add accent marks to your FrameMaker documents: Windows ANSI Codes or Escape Key Sequence.

1. Windows ANSI Codes

The Windows operating system comes with numeric ANSI codes that you enter into any Windows program by holding down the ALT key while typing in a four digit code on the numeric keypad. For example:

  • ALT 0233 results in é
  • ALT 0232 results in è

When you release the ALT key after typing in the four digits, the requested character appears. What I like about the ANSI codes is that I can memorize the ones I use the most, and then can enter them into any Windows program: FrameMaker, Photoshop, InDesign, Word, etc.

2. Escape Key Sequence

The Escape Key sequence produces the exact same results, but while I find them easier to work with, unfortunately, they only work in FrameMaker. They work by tapping and releasing a series of keys, in sequence (NOT all at the same time).

For example, to get the same accented é, tap and release ESC, apostrophe, e:

  • ESC ‘ e results in é
  • ESC ` e results in è
  • ESC : e results in ë
  • ESC ^ e results in ê

This technique puts these four accents over all five vowels. But Spanish uses the ñ: Can you figure it out on your own?

  • ESC ~ n results in ñ

And how about the French cedilla?

  • ESC , c results in ç

Pretty cool, don’t you think? I love this trick because I can look at the keyboard and figure out what I need in just a few seconds. Sure beats memorizing all the ANSI codes!

Note to FrameMaker 9 Users: We now have a Character Palette under File > Utilities > Character Palette. It’s awkward, but it does give you double-click access to the extended character set so definitely check it out.

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3 thoughts on “Adobe FrameMaker: Adding Accented Characters (Diacritics)

  1. I was looking for info on adding accented characters and came across your post.

    I had almost figured out the Windows ANSI codes myself, but you’ve effectively filled in the blanks.

    thanks for the detailed and clearly laid out instructiones