USGerman Keyboard Layout: Easier German umlauts on a US keyboard for Mac OS X

Works with Snow Leopard!

Please follow the new installation instructions if you updated to Snow Leopard. Until you do, you may not be able to use your admin account under 10.6.

If you are using Mac OS X with a US keyboard layout, but need to type lots of German text, then download the file USGerman Keyboard Layout (28 KB), unzip it, and put the file Roman.bundle into the following folder:

/Library/Keyboard Layouts

Don't use (your home directory)/Library/Keyboard Layouts with Snow Leopard (10.6) as you probably did in Leopard (10.5), otherwise you cannot enter any administration passwords anymore!

You may have to create this folder if it doesn't exist already.

Now close all open applications (running applications will not recognize the new keyboard layout and, under Leopard, may not respond to keyboard input with the new layout selected until you closed and relaunched them).

Launch System Preferences under the Apple menu (close it first if it was open already), go to the "International" "Keyboard" Preferences pane, and select the "Input Menu" "Input Sources" tab.

Click on the + in the lower left corner. In the now open overlay select others and select Check the "U.S. With Umlauts via Option Key" Keyboard layout , and uncheck the U.S. one if possible. Hit "Add".
Also check the "Show input menu in menu bar" option at the bottom.

Log out and back in once after first installing it to make it work in all applications (including Spotlight, the Finder, etc.).

After logging back in, in your menu bar, select the US/German flag from the new flag menu.

Now you can use the following keyboard shortcuts for German special characters:

option-a for ä
option-o for ö
option-u for ü
option-s for ß

This also works as expected for uppercase umlauts (Shift-option-A, Shift-option-O, Shift-option-U), and with Caps Lock enabled. Shift-option-S or Caps-option-S will create "SS", in accordance with typographical standards.

The Option key is also labeled "alt" on most keyboards.

I created this keyboard layout using the nice web interface at Check out their web site if you have any problems with this file. To recreate the above mapping, use the name "U.S. With Umlauts via Option Key", check "autodefine all unassigned keystrokes", leave the other options at their defaults, and paste the following code into their online form:

:: U.S. With Umlauts via Option Key
:: Copyright 2004,2005,2007,2008 by Prof. Dr. Jan Borchers, RWTH Aachen University, Germany
:: All rights reserved. License: You are free to modify and/or redistribute this product,
:: as long as you do not change or remove the copyright notices or this license.
Oa $E4 :: Option-a creates ä
OSa $C4 :: Option-Shift-a creates Ä
OCa $C4 :: Option-Caps-a creates Ä
Oo $F6 :: Option-o creates ö
OSo $D6 :: Option-Shift-o creates Ö
OCo $D6 :: Option-Caps-o creates Ö
Ou $FC :: Option-u creates ü
OSu $DC :: Option-Shift-u creates Ü
OCu $DC :: Option-Caps-u creates Ü
Os $DF :: Option-s creates ß
OSs SS :: Option-Shift-s creates SS
OCs SS :: Option-Caps-s creates SS

Paste the resulting page into an empty TextEdit window, select "Make Plain Text" from the Format menu, and save the resulting file as "U.S. With Umlauts via Option Key.keylayout" into the folder specified above and select it as described. You won't get Nils' cool icon that way, and we have tweaked this layout some more to make it work better (see version history below), but otherwise it works the same. Log out and back after activating it if it doesn't work right away.

To find the above hexadecimal Unicode character codes, open the International System Preference, click on the Input Menu tab, make sure Character Palette is checked, and make sure Show input menu in menu bar is checked at the bottom too. Then open the Character Palette under the little keyboard icon in the menu bar, select the Accented Latin character category, then click and hover over the character you want to see its Unicode character code.

Note that you need to be running Mac OS X 10.2 or newer for this to work.


- Jan & Nils

Known Bugs

  • Under Leopard, after first installing the new keyboard layout, running applications will not respond to keyboard input if you select the new layout in the menu bar. You have to go back to the U.S. layout, or quit and relaunch them. This is also true for the Finder, Spotlight, etc., which are non-trivial to relaunch. The easiest therefore is to follow the above instructions and log out and back in once after first installing the new layout. After that, changing between layouts from the flag in the menu bar is possible at any time and recognized immediately, even by running applications.
  • Breaks keyboard shortcuts in Adobe Illustrator CS1 (although not Photoshop or any other app I tried) under Tiger. Solution: It works fine under Illustrator CS3 (CS2 may also work). Alternative workaround: Check the U.S. layout again in the International System Preferences Pane, and switch to the standard U.S. layout for that app, using the flag menu in the Mac menu bar.

Revision History

  • Sep 10, 2009: Updated installation instructions for Snow Leopard, which requires you to install the keyboard layout to /Library/Keyboard Layouts instead of in HOME/Library/Keyboard Layouts. You need Administrator access to your Mac for this (which you will have if you're the only user).
  • Jan 3, 2008 (Version 0.98): Checked that the keyboard layout still works with Mac OS X 10.5.1 (Leopard). Updated the installation instructions, stressing the need to log out and back in. Changed URLs to new "hci" server. Changed long name to use official Apple "Optionstaste" German wording. Updated web page and synced Readme file to it. Updated version numbers to 0.9.8. No Xcode rebuild, just hacked plist and other text / string files. (Jan) Also entered listing at VersionTracker
  • July 28, 2007 (Version 0.97): Following a post on the Ukelele forum, changed the bundle name to Roman, the keyboard name to "U.S.", and verified that the ID is 5000, to avoid Mac OS X switching back to the default U.S. layout automatically. Changed long name to use official Apple "Option Key" wording. Updated web page and synced Readme file to it. Updated version numbers to 0.9.7. No Xcode rebuild, just hacked plist and other text / string files. (Jan)
  • August 25, 2005 (Version 0.96): Updated property list to look more like a U.S. keyboard to the system, changing to ISO code "en", works better with Tiger when entering passwords. (Nils)
  • March 14, 2005: Recreated keylayout using current web site, added uppercase sharp s mapping, added Caps Lock mappings, renamed layout to "U.S. With Umlauts via Option key", documented syntax and Unicode character codes, added do-it-yourself instructions. (Jan)
  • January 18, 2005 (Version 0.95): English / German localization and icon all wrapped in a Bundle. (Nils)
  • January 08, 2004: Initial version. (Jan)

Copyright 2004,2005,2007,2008 by Prof. Dr. Jan Borchers, RWTH Aachen, Germany - all rights reserved.


You are free to modify and/or redistribute this product, as long as you do not change or remove the copyright notices or this license.


Heute habe ich im Internet ihr keyboard layout für die Eingabe deutscher Umlaute gefunden und möchte mich hiermit ganz herzlich für Ihren Einfallsreichtum bedanken. Ich suche schon seit längerem nach einer einfacheren als der von Apple angeboten Lösung, bisher jedoch erfolglos. Vielen Dank nochmals. (C. Kick, Reutlingen, 2008)

Vor längerer Zeit habe ich ähnliche Tastenlayouts für Windows und Linux
erstellt. Als Neu-Mac-Benutzer freut es mich, dass ich die Arbeit für
den Mac nicht nochmal machen muss. (B Schoeller, Zürich, 2009)

Philipp von Weitershausen posted a similar idea in his 2006 blog. Check it out.

Bernd Schoeller has created similar layouts for Linux and Windows (9.2009).

Created by borchers. Last Modification: Thursday 21 of November, 2013 23:33:19 by aakraemer.

Media Computing Group at RWTH Aachen