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The new Azerty

[Version en français]

The science behind the new French keyboard standard

Anna Maria Feit, Mathieu Nancel, Maximilian John, Andreas Karrenbauer, Daryl Weir, et Antti Oulasvirta


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Stickers and drivers

A standard for the French keyboard

The project was launched at the end of 2015 on a proposal from the Délégation générale à la langue française et aux langues de France (Ministry of Culture), based on the observation that the current "azerty" keyboards constrain the writing of French, regional languages and European languages with a Latin alphabet.

For the first time, a standard (NF Z71-300) defines the placement of characters on the French keyboard. It describes two layouts, one of which closely follows the AZERTY keyboard used by most people who write in French. However, it is in many respects superior to the old keyboard :

The new AZERTY layout has been developed using computer algorithms. These are based on the results of the most recent research in the field of text input, on a large amount of French text data (including newspapers, programming code, and Twitter posts), and on large-scale studies of keyboard typing speed.

This web page is intended to serve as a reference for anyone interested in exploring the new AZERTY layout, and to learn more about the methods behind its design.

Compare the new layout to the old one

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Fixed characters(?)Unaccented letters and numbers have not been moved.
Diacritics(?)A diacritical sign is a sign accompanying a letter or grapheme: accents, umlauts and cedilla are diacritical signs.
"Modes(?)"The symbols ¤, μ and Eu, placed in Alt+F, Alt+G and Alt+H, give access to many other characters, respectively (¤) currency symbols, (μ) Greek letters, and (Eu) characters and symbols used in other European languages and dialects.

Click on a character for details.

Frequency of use(?) : This character appears once every X characters in our formal text corpora, every Y characters in our informal text corpora, and every Z characters in our programming code corpora.

 appears every...
Formal (?) The "Formal" corpus category is made of French texts, either written by professionals or corrected daily by a dedicated community. It includes all Wikipedia pages in French in June 2014, legal texts on environmental and labor legislation, written questions addressed to the Official Journal of the European Union and the corresponding answers, transcripts of radio broadcasts, and articles from recognized French news papers. Informal (?) The "Informal" corpus category contains anonymized emails, and the thousand most recent posts from 10 popular Twitter accounts and 10 popular Facebook accounts as of August 2016. The content, grammar, spelling, and use of special characters in these publications have not been corrected a posteriori to reflect realistic usage. Prog. (?) The "Programming" corpus category consists of text files in four popular programming languages (C++, Java, Python, Javascript) and two presentation languages (HTML, CSS). These files have been collected from the Github platform in 10 projects of more than 1000 lines of code (LOC) per language. The content of the comments of each file has been removed from the corpus, but not the delimiters of these comments.
  • Typing speed

  • Ergonomics

  • Familiarity

  • Similarity

Other comments

The science of the new AZERTY

Every step in this standardization process was focused on keyboard users, but it is difficult to decide what constitutes a good layout : should we favor speed and ergonomics, or make the characters easy to find? Should it favor "formal" text input, or everyday speech? How useful should it be to IT engineers, or to social media users? Juggling all these criteria and constraints is very difficult if you do it by hand.

The design of the new AZERTY layout was therefore supported by advanced algorithmic methods. We developed an optimization process that was used by the experts of the AFNOR standardization committee to design a keyboard layout that can be useful for everyone. The resulting layout is illustrated above. Clicking on a character brings up elements of the rationale behind its position, which takes into account the quantitative and qualitative criteria that presided over the design of the new AZERTY layout.

You can learn more about the methods and algorithms we used to develop the new AZERTY layout in our research articles :

Research articles on the new AZERTY layout
Journal article
Anna Maria Feit, Mathieu Nancel, Maximilian John, Andreas Karrenbauer, Daryl Weir, Antti Oulasvirta
AZERTY amélioré: Computational Design on a National Scale
Work document
Anna Maria Feit, Mathieu Nancel, Daryl Weir, Gilles Bailly, Maximilian John, Andreas Karrenbauer, Antti Oulasvirta
Élaboration de la disposition AZERTY modernisée
PhD dissertation, chapter 5.3
Anna Maria Feit
Assignment Problems for Optimizing Text Input
Conference article
Maximilian John and Andreas Karrenbauer
Dynamic Sparsification for Quadratic Assignment Problems

More references soon
Our research on keyboards layouts and text entry
Conference article
Anna Maria Feit, Daryl Weir, Antti Oulasvirta
How We Type: Movement Strategies and Performance in Everyday Typing.
Conference article
Vivek Dhakal, Anna Maria Feit, Per Ola Kristensson, Antti Oulasvirta
Observations on Typing from 136 Million Keystrokes
Conference article
Jussi Jokinen, Sayan Sarcar, Antti Oulasvirta et al.
Modelling Learning of New Keyboard Layouts
Our research on keyboard optimization
Conference article
Andreas Karrenbauer, Antti Oulasvirta
Improvements to Keyboard Optimization with Integer Programming
Conference article
Maximilian John, Andreas Karrenbauer
A Novel SDP Relaxation for the Quadratic Assignment Problem using Cut Pseudo Bases

Transforming an existing keyboard

The purpose of this section is to reference the efforts of organizations or individuals to make the "Azerty Amélioré" layout usable and testable. The researchers involved and the managers of this web page will not derive any material benefit from the dissemination or use of this content. If you would like your sticker template or keyboard driver to be referenced, please feel free to contact us.


Pre-cut stickers sold 7€ + shipping costs by Tastatur Aufkleber, from a model designed by Anna Maria Feit that matches the engraving recommendations described in the standard.

Sticker templates designed by Marc Baloup from the Loki research lab, to print and cut yourself. Different colors and levels of detail are available.
(Creative Commons BY-NC 4.0)

Sticker template designed by Github user springcomp, to print and cut yourself.

Software drivers


The new AZERTY layout

Characters and symbols in direct access, or using the Shift and AltGr modifiers The "Currency mode" can be accessed by first pressing ¤ (AltGr+F) The "Greek letter mode" can be accessed by first pressing μ (AltGr+G) (incomplete picture) The "European character mode" can be accessed by first pressing Eu (AltGr+H)

High resolution images

Provided by Cherry.

Press releases

In English
Changing how a country types , communiqué de presse by Aalto University

Some press articles on the subject: ACM TechNews, Vice Motherboard, BBC (audio, starting at 19 min).
In German

Press articles available soon

Code and data

The code and data used to iteratively optimize the new layout, in a back-and-forth process with the AFNOR expert committee: github.com/annafeit/norme-azerty.