The AZERTY layout is a keyboard layout used in several (at least partially) French-speaking countries, including France and Belgium. The French language uses several accented letters, such as é, à and ô, as well as a few other symbols such as œ that do not occur in English. A QWERTY keyboard is therefore insufficient.
While preserving the position of most letters, AZERTY keyboards represent a significant departure from the QWERTY layout:
The swapping of letters was made to accommodate letter frequencies in French, which are different from English ones. For instance, the letter W is much rarer in French than in English, while Z is slightly more frequent.
AZERTY keyboards do not fully meet standards for the French language. The Imprimerie nationale recommends that accented letters be printed with their accent, but the AZERTY keyboard does not provide a simple way to type capitalized accented letters. French quotation marks « » are also missing.
The AZERTY keyboard is also criticized for having seldom-used symbols, such as § and µ, on the normal and shifted state of keys. These symbols could be transferred to the AltGr state, and be replaced with more common characters. Similarly, the period and semicolon are on the same key, but shift has to be pressed to obtain the period, even though periods are far more frequent than semicolons.
The Belgian AZERTY was developed from the French AZERTY and some adaptations were made in the 1980s. All letters are the same as on the French keyboard, but some punctuation signs (? ! @ - _ + = §) are in different positions. Unlike French AZERTY which has English terms such as "Escape" translated as "échap", the Belgian layout uses the traditional English words and terminology for all keys. It is also notable that this layout is commonly used in all of Belgium, while Flemish is the native language for more than half of its citizens.
In Canada, where the practice of writing accents on capital letters is generally followed, enhanced QWERTY keyboard layouts are used instead of AZERTY. Two slightly different layouts coexist, the Canadian Multilingual Standard and the Canadian French layout. Both allow easy typing of accented capital letters and of French quotation marks. However they too lack an œ key.
On the Wii video game console, regardless of region, if the menu language is set to French, the AZERTY layout is used, although the North American instruction manual calls it a "QWERTY" keyboard in French.