Thursday, 12 February 2015

Typing In German On A US Keyboard

I am learning German. Both speaking and writing. It is a slow process as unfortunately I was one of those English people that thought shouting in English made it understandable in any language. And to make matters worse I have a US laptop with a US keyboard. So, you have an Englishman with an American keyboard wanting to type German characters.

But the positive thing is that although the German language is completely different the alphabet is not that different. Actually, the alphabet is the same. Germany classes the 26 letters of the alphabet as 'cardinal' and the special characters as 'diacritic'.

The characters I am interested in are:

Ä, ä, Ö, ö, Ü, ü, ß, and €. The rest are the same as the English alphabet

Yes the United Kingdom is in Europe but they decided to keep the British Pound (£) instead of adopting the Euro; and the US keyboard does not have the Euro symbol.

That being said, when you start googling for an easy way to input these characters it becomes a minefield of useless information. First there is the whole process of which Operating System it is and then when you hit Linux a lot of information comes down to X11, Gnome, KDE and other desktops.

But there is an easy option. That works in Linux, Windows and the Mac. Unicode input. Unicode maps some 1,112,064 characters. As I am only worried about 8 it should be easy to remember all 8 character codes pretty easily. I use Linux mainly, and Windows in a virtual machine purely for Photoshop.

The Unicode Codes that I need are:
  • Ä - 00C4
  • ä - 00E4
  • Ö - 00D6
  • ö - 00F6
  • Ü - 00DC
  • ü - 00FC
  • ß - 00DF
  • € - 20AC
Eight codes to remember, and the only thing that changes is the key presses to insert the codes on the different Operating Systems.

Linux (Tested In Mint & Ubuntu)

To input Unicode codes the sequence is:

  • Press [Ctrl] + [Shift] + U
  • Then type the four hex digits (e.g. 00C4)
  • Press [Enter] or [Space]

Windows (Tested In XP & 7)

To input Unicode codes the sequence is:

  • Press and hold the [Alt] key
  • Then type the four hex digits (e.g. 00C4)
  • Release the [Alt] key

Mac OS X (Untested - Purely For Reference)

To input Unicode codes the sequence is:

  • Press and hold the [Option] key
  • Then type the four hex digits (e.g. 00C4)
  • Release the [Option] key


Supposedly there is a specific registry entry that must be in place for this method to work. The registry entry is "EnableHexNumpad" which is located in "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Input Method" and the value should be "1". I checked both the Windows XP and the Windows 7 registry and found this registry entry to be missing, but the input method above worked.

All 3 Operating Systems have a graphical method to input Unicode codes. In Windows it is "charmap". In Linux it is "gucharmap" (Gnome) or "kcharselect" (KDE). In OS X, on the Mac, it is the "Character Palette".

A full table of the Unicode codes can be be found at


  1. OS X Yosemite version 10.10.2:

    Press the letter down and hold you get a little options window.

    Ä: caps lock button + hold down A and then press 4
    ä: hold down a -> then 4
    Ö: caps button + hold down O and then press 2
    ö: hold down o -> then 2
    Ü: caps button + hold down U and then press 2
    ü: hold down u -> then 2
    ß only possible with pressing small s (hold it down) + press 1

    The other option on a Mac is press "special characters" in the pull down menu under File, then choose accented Latin

    1. Thanks for that. Didn't have a Mac to try it on.

  2. To use the Unicode input you must ensure that the Unicode Hex keyboard is activated.


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