USGerman Keyboard Layout: Easier German umlauts on Macs with US keyboards
If you are using a Mac with a US keyboard layout, but need to type lots of German text, then you will want to use this layout. It makes entering German umlauts (äöüÄÖÜ) and the sharp es (ß) a breeze.
Download the file
unzip it, and put the file Roman.bundle into the following folder:
You may have to create this folder if it doesn't exist already.
You'll need administrator rights on your Mac for this, which you have automatically if you're the only user.
Don't use (your home directory)/Library/Keyboard Layouts with Snow Leopard (10.6) or later, otherwise you may not be able to enter any administration passwords anymore.
Launch System Preferences under the Apple menu (close it first if it was open already), go to the Keyboard Preferences pane, and select the Input Sources tab.
Click on the + in the lower left corner. In the overlay, select Others, then the U.S. With Umlauts via Option Key keyboard layout. Click Add to close the overlay.
Under macOS 12 (Monterey), you may need to delete the "ABC" and "US" Keyboard options in that list to make this work. "US" may reappear later, but everything works nevertheless.
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 the Finder, Spotlight, etc.).
After logging back in, in your menu bar, select the US/German flag from the new flag menu. In that menu, select "Hide Input Source Name" to save some space in the menu bar.
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. (In 2017, an optional uppercase ẞ was introduced officially, but I haven't gotten around to changing this layout file yet.)
The Option key is also labeled "alt" on most keyboards.
It has been used successfully under all macOS versions from Mac OS X 10.2 until macOS Mojave (10.14) so far.
— Jan & Nils
Recreating the Mapping
I created this keyboard layout using the nice web interface at http://wordherd.com/keyboards/. 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 Keyboard System Preference, click on the 'Keyboard tab, and make sure Show Keyboard & Character Viewers in menu bar is checked. Then open the Character Viewer under the little keyboard icon in the menu bar, select the Latin'' character category, then right-click on the character you want to copy and paste its Unicode character code and other info into your text editor.
- 0.98: When editing Microsoft Word documents online using Microsoft OneDrive in Safari, hitting alt-shift-o for Ö does not work. Works fine in Safari otherwise. (Jan B. / May 15, 2015)
- 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.
- Feb 25, 2021: Updated these online instructions for macOS 12 (Monterey).
- Dec 22, 2018: Updated icon to higher Retina resolution for modern Macs. Thanks to RWTH student Julian Schiemann for the file! Also updated online instructions to reflect compatibility with macOS High Sierra (10.13) and Mojave (10.14).
- Sep 29, 2017: Updated online instructions to reflect compatibility with macOS Sierra (10.12). No changes in the layout file itself. (Jan)
- May 15, 2015: Updated online instructions for Yosemite, removed pre-Snow Leopard instructions. No changes in the layout file itself. (Jan)
- 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 wordherd.com web site, added uppercase sharp s mapping, added Caps Lock mappings, renamed layout to "U.S. With Umlauts via Option key", documented wordherd.com 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.
erstellt. Als Neu-Mac-Benutzer freut es mich, dass ich die Arbeit für
den Mac nicht nochmal machen muss. (B Schoeller, Zürich, 2009)
Alternatives and Related Projects
As of 2017, you can also get to special characters on the Mac by holding down a key for a second, and then selecting a character variant via mouse or another keypress, but it is much slower and breaks your typing flow. (https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201586)
Philipp von Weitershausen posted a similar idea in his 2006 blog. Check it out.