This combination of file pictures created on April 10, 2022, shows French far-right party Rassemblement National s (RN) presidential candidate Marine Le Pen posing during a photo session in Paris on October 20, 2021, and French President and La Republique en Marche (LREM) party candidate for re-election Emmanuel Macron posing for a photo session on March 7, 2017 at his campaign headquarters in Paris. AFP
They will face each other in a final round on April 24, when the candidate with more than 50 percent will be declared the winner.
Here is a summary of their programmes:
After five years in power, Macron's chief pitch to voters is continuity and steady leadership in a time of crisis.
From rocketing inflation to Covid to the war in Ukraine, the 44-year-old is hoping his record in office will see him rewarded with a second term.
His programme is a further demonstration of his "neither left, nor right" political positioning that borrows from both sides of the traditional divide in politics.
From the right-wing, there are promises of more tax cuts for companies, thousands of new police officers and judges, and a rise in the retirement age to 65 from 62 in order to cut the pension system's massive debt.
"I take responsibility for telling you that yes: we need to work longer," he said at his first campaign rally last weekend.
From the left, he proposes raising the minimum level of pensions, new recruits for the health service, and a promise to make gender equality and tackling school harassment a priority.
The far-right leader is offering her traditional hard line on immigration and French identity coupled with a programme aimed at helping struggling households.
She is promising to ban the Muslim headscarf in all public places and to hold a referendum on introducing strict controls on immigration, including a requirement that applications for residency can be made only outside France.
A principal "national priority" would see housing and other social services given to French nationals ahead of foreigners, and she is also promising 25,000 new prison places and extra police.
But there are also policies for struggling households, including a cut in taxes on petrol and electricity to 5.5 percent from 20 percent, and rises in pension payouts.
"Our programme is a social one because it completely takes into account the questions of daily life, above all the cost of living," she said in her last rally in Perpignan, southern France, on Thursday.
On foreign policy, Le Pen has distanced herself from Russian leader Vladimir Putin but proposes pulling out of NATO's joint military command, in line with her promise to bolster French sovereignty. She has also proposed France-first changes that would challenge the foundations of the European Union.