(Moot) Suggestion: Alt-Codes upon special character hovering (updated)
My previous suggestion: http://pastebin.com/E5iWPwSY
Thank you for all your comments and feedback! While my idea seemed rational for a while I do understand now why it wouldn't be that great.
So instead I offer a suggestion made by martinkunev below, which I realize is much more practical than my temporary instant-gratification suggestion:
"I think a better solution is links to articles explaining how to setup your computer for a given language. Such articles will give the user more information and could explain not only dealing with typing problems but also fixing non-properly displayed characters."
Alt codes only make sense for entering a name with an accent occasionally. If you want to write in a foreign language regularly, you should use the US International keyboard. There are two variants:
(1) Without dead keys. There is absolutely no change from the standard US layout except that the right Alt key becomes the AltGr key and gives you access to all the accented characters you need for the major European languages.
(2) With dead keys. Here '`"~^ become 'dead keys'. If you want them in the normal way, you have to press space after them. If you press appropriate other characters after them instead, you get a combination. E.g. with a: áàäãâ. This is the default version of the layout, though possibly the less popular one.
I am German and use (2) on all my computers for all languages including German. I only have to switch to (1) or standard US layout very occasionally because of the odd badly coded computer game. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keyboard_layout#US-International for more information on the US International layout and related layouts.
This is what I do. I got tired of pushing the buttons and ALT codes are a pain to memorize. The US international keyboard has replaced my normal layout and it's super quick and easy to type all diacritic letters now :)
What is "AltGr"? Is that Alt German? I am trying to learn French, and would like to be able to type French accents - is there a French Alt version, and what would that be?
AltGr just means Alt Graphic. When you hold alt and then press a certain key to get a different character than you would have gotten had you not held Alt.
Like, if you are using US International with an Alt Gr key, you would hold right Alt and then press 'n' to get 'ñ'.
But what I want to know is how to change the keyboard so I don't have Dead keys but can still use Alt+Key to get an accented character.
What you have to do depends strongly on your operating system. Just use Google. On Windows XP there is a setting that makes a keyboard switcher appear. You have to configure it so that US International is an option. Then you have to set the US International options to something like "no dead keys".
Found a great tool by Microsoft that lets me completely customize my keyboard's language layout: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=22339
Thanks for the tip :-)
While that is true, I just don't see any drawbacks to the implementation of this. Even if only to appeal to those who might not be able to use the same computer all the time, or don't have access to "their" computer's keyboard settings (say, school library or relatives' computers), or just aren't technologically inclined and don't feel comfortable messing with them, even if it would save time.
Then you have a slightly wider range of applicable ways to access needed special characters instead of relying on the ability to alter keyboard settings.
And this would be so effortless to add, as far as I could tell. More people would see the addition and become slightly more efficient, than would take the time to read instructions on how to change their keyboard settings as well as take the time to do it, even if it doesn't take that long. I'm not even trying to start an empirical debate on "well if they don't want to learn blah blah, they don't deserve to blah blah," I'm just stating what I think would realistically benefit a non-trivial amount of users while providing no drawbacks to users that choose different methods. Because one method might not be the best for one person as it is for someone else.
That's all I'm asking.
The problem is that the way you insert Alt codes depends very strongly on the operating system, and sometimes even on details of the installation that cannot be determined by the browser. Also, it's a clumsy method that should not be encouraged in this way.
Also, thank you for posting those methods of accenting words without using Alt-Codes. I just think the implementation of this tooltip would provide more advantages than disadvantages.
Here's another idea though. What if, after so many accented characters have been inputted to text boxes, it gives a little, non-intrusive message that hovers into view, saying things like "There's an easier way!" followed by instructions or a link to a tutorial on how to use US International Keyboard settings (which could be customized depending on the users' OS), as well as a button to dismiss that message forever. That way it's a matter of preference and not just forced inconvenience.
Thank you again for your reply though. Just changed my keyboard layout.
I don't think this is a good idea.
There are many different typing methods and they greatly depend on operating system, language, keyboard layout, etc. There's no way to make sure that the proposed by the tooltip method will work. As Duolingo expands, new languages will be added. Tooltips won't solve the problem for people learning Russian or Mandarin.
I think a lot of users will get confused by the tooltips. Also different people may prefer different input methods. Windows Alt combinations are not comfortable in most cases.
I think a better solution is links to articles explaining how to setup your computer for a given language. Such articles will give the user more information and could explain not only dealing with typing problems but also fixing non-properly displayed characters.
That is a wonderful idea.
And a tool by Microsoft that I just found is awesome: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=22339
Another option, one that I use is SpanishAccentsCapsLock.,exe It isn't perfect but is handy. If you search for it, there are instructions. Put it on your desktop. Disable it in the lower right system tray.