On a Mac:
press "option" and "u" simultaneously ==> nothing appears on
the screen. Now press "a," "o," or "u" and the desired
umlaut will appear.
press "option" and "s" simultaneously, and "ß" will
These shortcuts work in all programs on a Mac.
I find these shortcuts very easy and convenient to use, but there are also lots of other options for changing your keyboard layout on a Mac. For more info, click here.
On a PC:
There are lots of ways to type the special characters on a PC. Switching your keyboard layout to the "US International" keyboard is the easiest solution, and works in all applications - this is method (1) below. Two additional easy solutions are available specifically if you're using Microsoft Word: you can use the default key combinations on Word, or define your own. These are methods (2) and (3) below. A few of the many other possibilities are listed further below under the "other possibilities" heading. Please
send me (Hartmut) a message
if you have additional ideas about this that I should include here, or if you notice that a method mentioned below no longer works!
1. Using the US International Keyboard layout:
To switch to the US International Keyboard layout, look for instructions in your computer's help menu, or follow the instructions given by Microsoft Support here. Although multiple steps are involved the first time you do this, it will be easy to switch to this layout once you've added it to your computer's keyboard options for the first time, and you could definte a keyboard shortcut for switching between this and the regular US keyboard layout. [Note: you do not need to download anything to make this work; you just need to enable the "US International keyboard layout option.]
- Here are instructions for installing the US International Keyboard in Windows 10:
- Go to Settings from the windows icon at bottom left. Click on Time and Language, the Region and Language.
- You should see English (United States) ...[assuming you are in US]. Click on it and a button labeled OPTIONS will appear.
- Click on the OPTIONS button. Now you will see an option to ADD a KEYBOARD. Click on that and then scroll down the list until you see United States International. Click to add it to your language bar (should be in system tray)
- Works just like previous versions after you add it.
To type umlaute using the US International Keyboard layout, type a quotation mark (") and then the letter over which you would like the umlaut to appear, i.e. a, A, o, O, u, or U. Nothing will appear on your screen when you type the quotation mark; once you type the a, o or u, the umlauted ä, ö or ü will appear. Note that when you actually want to type a quotation mark, you have to type the quotation mark followed by the space bar to make it appear.
- Perhaps slightly less intuitive, but easier, are the following key combinations using the "Alt" key to the right of the space bar (sometimes called "RAlt or "AltGr"). Instead of using the right hand "Alt" key, you can also type "Ctrl" + "Alt": RAlt + q = ä; RAlt + p = ö; RAlt + y = ü. For Ä, Ö and Ü, add the "Shift" key.
- You need the RAlt key (or Ctrl + Alt) to type ß: RAlt + s = ß
- Click here for some additional info on the US International Keyboard layout from the Language Center at SUNY Cortland
2. Microsoft Word only:
Use the default key combinations in Word, which should
be as follows:
Hold down "control" and press the colon (:) (i.e. Shift +
;) [Nothing will appear on your screen when you press this
combination of keys]. Then release all three keys you just
pressed and type the letter over which you wish the umlaut
to be (i.e. "a," "o," or "u"). The umlaut should now
(ß): Hold down "control" and press the ampersand
(&) (i.e. Shift + 7) [Nothing will appear on your
screen when you press this combination of keys]. Then release
all three keys you just pressed and type the letter s.
The "s-zet" (ß) should now appear.
If these key combinations don't work on your PC, go to "Insert"
and then "Symbol." Click on the special character you
want, and then click "Shortcut" as described below.
The key combinations currently defined for that special character
on your computer will appear.
Microsoft Word only: If you don't like the above key combinations, there is a way
to define simpler ones: From the "Insert" menu, choose "Symbol."
A graphic appears with all sorts of cool characters.
Click on the special character you want, and then click on
the "Shortcut" option. There, you can define a key combination
for that character that's convenient for you, or you can read
and memorize the one set by the computer as a default (which
should be the combination of keys described above). The computer
will tell you if the key combination you choose is already
in use. If you have your own computer, you only need to do
this once; if you're using a computing center, you'll need
to do it each time you come.
- Use the Unicode Character Numbers. Click on the link for details!
- ЮNIK ("ЮNICODE Keyboard Enhancer"). This is a program that allows you to create your own keyboard shortcuts in Windows. It also works with Linux. You can read about and download the program here: http://www.law.net.ru/unik/. This link was sent to me by Andrey Rumyantsev, who wrote the program after years of using the above methods.
- downloading the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator and defining your own shortcuts. Here is a description someone sent me:
- With the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator, I've created my own custom keyboard layout, giving up the right-hand Alt key to serve as my "AltG" key [as in "Alt key for German"], and mapping the appropriate keys to their German keyboard equivalent when the right-hand Alt key is held (so AltG-hyphen gives me an "ß," AltG-semicolon gives me an "ö," etc.), without having to remember where my y and z (and @) are. It also means I can add other shortcuts for common non-German characters without having to switch keyboard layouts. AltG-2 gives me ½, for example.
This only works with Windows 2000 or later and the Microsoft .NET Framework v1.0 or v1.1 must be installed.
"alt" + some numbers that constitute the ASCII code for
these characters (laborious for most people, but click
here if you're interested in the codes)
your keyboard to a German keyboard (confusing unless you
happen to have learned to type in Germany; e.g. "y" and
"z" are interchanged on the German keyboard).
- Click here for some instructions on typing umlaute and ß in Kubuntu Linux.
- Click here for information on the "ZombieKeys" extension ["ZombieKeys brings your dead keys to life!"] you can use to make the "default combinations" from Microsoft Word listed under (2) above work in Firefox or Thunderbird.
Typing the symbol for the Euro (€)
a Mac: hold down shift and option keys and type 2 (but NOT on
- In Word: From
the "Insert" menu, choose "Symbol." A graphic appears with
all sorts of cool characters. Click on the Euro character
(€---be sure to select "Times New Roman" font; the
€--symbol appears towards the bottom of the list of
characters), and then click on the "Shortcut" option. There,
you can define a key combination that's convenient for you.
The computer will tell you if the key combination you choose
is already in use. If you have your own computer, you only
need to do this once; if you're using a computing center,
you'll need to do it each time you come.
- In any program:
Hold down "alt" and type 0128 on the numeric keypad (you
MUST use the zero)
A note on capitalizing ß
No words begin with ß, so the only reason to capitalize it would be that you are writing a word or a title in "all caps." Traditionally, the way to do this for ß in German has been to either replace it with "SS" (e.g. STRASSE; WEISS) or to use the regular lowercase ß (e.g. STRAßE; WEIß). Since neither solution is ideal, there have long been attempts to design and introduce a capital ß. As of 2008, there is a capital ß in the Unicode character set (ẞ; U+1E9E). As of June 29, 2017, the capital ß is a part of official German orthography. This means that it can officially be used, but the previous options (SS or lowercase ß) are still permitted and will likely continue to be much more common than the capital ß, not least because it may take some time for the new letter to be integrated into German keyboards! Click on the links to see Wikipedia's very informative pages on the new capital ß in English or in German.