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French computer keyboards to change - what is Bépo?

I have heard French keyboards are changing but now there is talk of something called Bépo – what is it? D.W.

25 September 2019
By Oliver Rowland

French standards body Afnor has been working on an update to the Azerty keyboard for three years and recently announced what is going to change.

It has tried to respond to contradictory findings from consultations: a strong demand for radical changes but an equally strong demand to do nothing.

So it has approved two designs – a new Azerty and a totally new layout, Bépo, so-called because the first letters on the top row are BEPO.

Neither are being imposed but rather manufacturers will be left to gradually bring these in if there is demand, or not.

The new Azerty aims at eliminating aspects of the old one which some people found frustrating.

It is easier to type accented capitals (on the old one you have to use alt codes)  or combinations such as æ or œ and there is no need to press shift to obtain a full stop.

The most common accented letters are grouped, top left.

As for Bépo, it is said to be the most ergonomic way of typing French, with the keys ordered to make the ones statistically the most used in French the most easily accessible.

Accent keys are towards the centre, taking account of their importance in French.

Bépo was originally developed by French computer enthusiasts in the early years of the century.

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