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Switching from German to US Keyboard  (View post)

ahab [PersonRank 5]

Thursday, September 10, 2009
13 years ago13,465 views

Why did you install the US-International keyboard mapping and do you want to add extra keyboard mappings for characters with Umlauts? The US-International keyboard mapping works like an old-fashioned typewriter in this respect, so you to put an Umlaut over an a you type "a and get ä as the result. Should you need the double quote as is, just type "<space> again like one would do on an old-fashioned keyboard. The Ringel-S can be entered using Alt-Gr+s giving ß.

In fact the US-International keyboard mapping gets the best out of one's US- keyboard, as also the French diacritiacal markings like ^e giving ê, 'e giving é and `e giving è can be used. And entering a cedilla is as easy as entering 'c giving ç.
Portuguese and Spanish diacritical marks can also be entered this way, e.g. ~n to get ñ.

To modify such a versatile layout to create a US International Utopia before looking at the available options is like re-inventing the wheel: it's great to invent is but all people riding by you in their cars and on their bicycles and segways won't understand your exitement. ;)

See also:

Michael Kuhn [PersonRank 1]

13 years ago #

I find it easier to usually type on a US Keyboard for typing English, and when I need umlauts I just switch to German keyboard layout and do blind typing.

Ervin [PersonRank 0]

13 years ago #

SE [PersonRank 2]

13 years ago #

Why did you switch from a german to a US keyboard? You can write english with a german keyboard.

xeen [PersonRank 1]

13 years ago #

[put at-character here]ahab: Umlauts are quite rare, but not that rare that you want to compose them everytime. Having AltGr as another modifier allows allows you to type them directly (like uppercase characters).

[put at-character here]SE: you can write German with an English keyboard as well. But probably not as efficiently as with a “dedicated“ keyboard. If you look closely at the layout, you can see that many programming characters like [] or {} have to be typed using the key right of the space bar and the numbers 7 to 0. Doing so with your right hand forces you to leave the preferred typing position making it a lot slower than just hitting the keys on the toprow.

I've used the layout you've setup quite a long time myself, but recently switched to Neo which seems to offer both easily reachable programming keys as well as umlauts (and some other improvements… at least they say, I'm still learning). Upside is the Caps Lock key has some use again :)

David R. [PersonRank 0]

13 years ago #

Have you seen the trouble French have to go through? (Joking)

Nice article! Also sometimes change from my PT layout to US just for coding and video editing as i find it easier...


David Orban [PersonRank 1]

13 years ago #

I moved from Windows to the Mac (Vista convinced me: a couple of years ago. On my system I switch transparently from one keyboard layout to the other among three (English, Italian, and Hungarian) very easily, and since I touch-type on each, I don't have to see the characters to know where my fingers need to hit. The cognitive clue of the language I write on appears to be enough to make my fingers go where they need to...

Ken Aston [PersonRank 1]

13 years ago #

Can't you just switch the keyboard layout in order to get the Umlaut on the same key as they would be on a German keyboard? I use a German keyboard but switch to US layout often, that works fine. It doesn't work the other way around?

ahab [PersonRank 5]

13 years ago #

[put at-character here]xeen
As you can see in the Microsoft reference the US-International layout next to dead key support also allows AltGr shortcuts. The dead key 'old-fashioned typewriter' support is however far more easy to remember than shortcut keys and also works for those other more seldom used diacritic marks for which you don't have any shortcuts at hand.
My sole point was: why try to create something that is already available and in practice very easy to use. Once you are accustomed to using dead keys they allow a far more natural flow when typing then any user defined shortcut would bring.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

13 years ago #

Ahab, by default the US International Keyboard created a dead key out of ", meaning I would need to hit a second key to have it show – this is bad for all the many times I do need the ", or isn't it? In any case, I find using just a single keystroke-combo (like Alt+a) easier than using dead keys. In fact, the US International keyboard DOES recognize that need – it has all kinds of Umlaute and so on available via the right-alt key --, the only problem for typing German being that it puts the "ä" on the letter "q" (i.e. right-alt+q) instead of putting it on "a", and similarly misplaced for other Umlaute! This is very confusing. The reason they apparently did this is because e.g. the right-alt "a" was already occupied to mean the (accentuated) "á". So for my purposes, Utopia is indeed better than the default US International...

> The dead key 'old-fashioned typewriter' support is however
> far more easy to remember

I think the gap between us here is that you are looking for a solution to type any special character (though perhaps not in every sentence) – to which the US International default layout may be perfect – while I'm looking for a solution to type only German special characters (but in basically every sentence) – to which my Utopia layout is perfect. There simply is no "hard to remember" problem for me when I need to type Alt+a to mean "ä" – it is very natural because the "ä" is an a with two dots on top. Your solution is the best general solution for all purposes. My solution is the best solution for my very specific "German needs" (which other Germans may share of course, hence the post).

And again, the US international keyboard layout creators seem to agree, as they already built Alt-based shortcuts for e.g. the accentuated "a" – the only difference being that they gave higher priority to accentuations instead of Umlaute (they put the ä in a hard to remember position, and put the á in an easy position – they had to make a general decision after all), whereas I need to give higher priority to Umlaute. Umlaute appear in basically every other German sentence, often multiple times, sometimes multiple times in a single word.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

13 years ago #

> Why did you switch from a german to a US keyboard?
> You can write english with a german keyboard.

Because I wanted to try if some of the keys often need for programming are easier to reach this way. For instance, on a German keyboad typing

items[] = 'hello'; // adding a new value to the array

will take the following:

"items" ... RightAlt+8, RightAlt+9 ... Shift+0 ... Shift+# ... "hello" ... Shift+# ... Shift+7.

On the US keyboard, it takes none of these key combos! Of course, there are many instances in which you also need to type Shift-Combos on US keyboards. Above was not an example representative of the average. Still, I wanted to try out if this would be faster in the long run. After all, many programming-related technologies originate in Silicon Valley and may be more suited for US keyboards. I don't know yet if my typing speed will pick up beyond what it was on a German keyboard.

> Can't you just switch the keyboard layout in order to get the
> Umlaut on the same key as they would be on a German keyboard?

Yes, that was how I did it before, but that is suboptimal for a couple of reasons:
1. my keyboard layout naturally doesn't show ö, ü, ä, so I would be required to type those "blind". What's worse, all the special characters are placed elsewhere... typing German this way on a US keyboard would be very complicated.
2. the "y" and "z" letters are switched. So it would always be confusing switching from German to US and back when typing Y or Z.

Stephan Locher [PersonRank 9]

13 years ago #

Do you measure the change in any way e.g. how long you have to type a specific function with the new keyboard compared to the old one or do you just look which "feels" faster?

An Idea for typing fast in german without using the utopia or similar scheme would be to relay on the 10-finger typing without looking at the screen. However this works only if you don't use the mouse while typing.

btw. I think this is an interesting topic and it's great that you shared it on google blogoscoped even it hasn't to do with google.

Georg Moeller [PersonRank 0]

13 years ago #

Just switch to NEO Layout (

I've been using it for a few years and it works equally well for english and german and is more or less independent from the keyboard used.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

13 years ago #

Stephan, I guess I will just have to rely on gut feeling as far as typing speed improvements are concerned... I didn't measure this in any way before. I'm mostly doing "blind typing" so it wasn't really that I found the German keyboard to be too slow, but I still figured maybe there's room for improvement. I also kind of prefer more standardized approaches, it often has the side effects of making other things easier because more tools more natively support it (that's why I would also prefer to switch to a US operating system, I'm currently using a German one).

Here's one random small example: when I'm on a German keyboard and I switch to Google's Chinese Input Method Editor to type Chinese, then suddenly Google's IME will "switch" the "y" and "z" keys... so now when I want to type 元 I would accidentally enter "zuan" instead of the correct "yuan". On an English keyboard, this doesn't happen when I switch to the Google IME.

As another example, when you're traveling and you go to internet cafes, you will usually find international keyboards. I've gotten used to a US style keyboard before while living in Malaysia (where Blogoscoped got started...).

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