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Azerty keyboards are set to change

Standards agency calls for easier to use systems – including one that is radically different

France’s Azerty keyboard is set to change, with a new keyboard layout that is aimed to be better suited to the digital age.

The present keyboard, where the top line of letters reads AZERTY, could be set to vanish as one of the options put forward by the French standards agency Afnor is for a radically different format, called Bépoè.

Azerty keyboards have been in use for more than a century but they have been criticised for their lack of ease of use – with the Délégation Générale à la Langue Française et aux Langues de France saying it was “nearly impossible to write in French correctly with a French keyboard”.

The two models that Afnor has put forward for consultation include a revised Azerty keyboard where the alphabet letters and numbers remain where they are but other keys such as accented characters, the arobase @ sign and curly brackets will change. The full stop will also be available without needing to use the Caps key.

However, the alternative BÉPOÈ keyboard is completely new and has been created to be ergonomic and easy to use with keys laid out according to a statistical study of how often they are used in French. [The Qwerty keyboard is based on a similar idea but with the aim of stopping typewriter keys clashing if often-used letters are beside each other] 

The consultation is open until July 9 but the adoption of the new norm will be voluntary. Keyboard manufacturers will be free to choose whatever layout they wish, with smartphone and tablet keyboards possibly using the two together.

Qwerty keyboards are common across the world while Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Hungary have the Qwertz format and there are more than 33 different (usually minor) combinations worldwide.

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