German Keyboard Layout: Easily Switch German and English

Whether you’re into German Keyboard Layout for kicks, or you happen to learn it for an assignment you got from your boss- typing in German is pretty cool!

But, as with all things worth learning, it has its challenges, its hills and valleys. For starters, the language has a layout specifically for it.

In the upcoming sections, we will explore a step-by-step guide for installing and effectively using German keyboard layouts across devices, and the distinctions between the familiar QWERTY keyboard and its German counterpart, the QWERTZ layout. We will also discuss the special characters that differentiate German typing and provide an overview of the same.

Ready? Let’s get into it !!

What is German Keyboard Layout?

Hey there! So, a German keyboard layout is like a blueprint for how the keys on a keyboard are organized when you’re typing in the German language.

german keyboard layout

Source: Wikipedia

It’s a bit different from the standard English layout you’re used to, like QWERTY. In the German layout, they use something called QWERTZ, which means some letters are in different places.

For example, the “Y” and “Z” keys are swapped, and you also have some special characters like “ä,” “ö,” “ü,” and “ß” that you won’t find on an English keyboard.

So, if you want to type in German smoothly, it’s handy to switch to this QWERTZ layout or learn how to access those special characters on a QWERTY keyboard.

How to Switch to German Layout Keyboard

Fortunately, you don’t need to build your own keyboard from scratch. Switching to a German Layout is far easier. For a more authentic German typing experience, just like native Germans, you can switch your keyboard to the QWERTZ layout (German mode). This layout provides special accent keys for characters such as ß, Ä, Ö, and Ü, making it a breeze to include those unique accents.

Follow the instructions below to set up your German layout for your OS

1) Switch to the German Layout on Windows

To set up a German keyboard layout on your Windows system, follow these steps:

  • Go to “Settings” and select “Time & Language.”
  • In the “Language” section, under “Preferred languages,” select “Add a language.”
  • Search for “German” and choose the regional variant you prefer, such as “German (Germany).” Click “Next,” and then hit “Install.”
  • The German language pack will now be added to your list of preferred languages.
  • After installation, you can switch between keyboard layouts by clicking on the language abbreviation in your taskbar, which is typically represented as “ENG” or “DEU.”
  • Alternatively, you can use the shortcut keys (Windows key + Space) to cycle through the available layouts.

2) Switch to the German Layout on Mac

If you’re using macOS, here’s how to add a German keyboard layout:

  • Go to “System Preferences” and click on “Keyboard.”
  • Now go to “Input Sources.”
  • Click the “+” button to add a new input source.
  • Select “German” from available languages, and then click “Add.”

To switch between keyboard layouts on macOS:

  • Find the keyboard layout icon in the menu.
  • Click on the icon and select the layout you want.
  • Alternatively, you can use the shortcut keys (Command + Space) to cycle through the available layout options.

3) Switch to the German Layout on Linux

If you’re using a Linux distribution like Ubuntu, here’s how to add a German keyboard layout:

  • Open “Settings” and select “Region & Language.”
  • In the “Input Sources”, click the “+” button.
  • Search for “German” and select a layout from the options. Then, click “Add.”

To switch between keyboard layouts in Linux:

  • You can use the shortcut keys (Alt key + Shift key) to cycle through the available layouts.
  • Alternatively, you can select the layout from your desktop environment’s language indicator.

4) Switch to the German Layout on the Mobile

iOS:

  • Go to “Settings” and then select “General.”
  • Scroll down and tap on “Keyboard.”
  • Select “Keyboards” and click on “Add New Keyboard.”
  • From the list, pick “German.”

Android:

  • Go to “Settings.”
  • Find “General Management” or “Language and Input,” depending on your device.
  • Look for “On-screen Keyboard” or “Virtual Keyboard,” then select “Samsung Keyboard” or your default keyboard app.
  • Tap on “Language and Types” or “+ Select Input Languages” (depending on your device’s options). If available, click on “MANAGE INPUT LANGUAGES.”
  • Select “Deutsch” from the list of languages provided.

On both iOS and Android, you can switch between keyboard layouts by either tapping and holding the spacebar or using the globe icon on your virtual keyboard.

Why German Keyboard Layout?

Learning the German keyboard layout, or at least understanding how it works, can be super useful, and here’s why:

First off, it’s efficient. If you’re typing in German regularly, whether for work, studying, or just communicating with friends, the German layout can save you a lot of time. It places special German characters like “ä,” “ö,” “ü,” and “ß” in more convenient spots, so you don’t have to hunt for them or remember complex keyboard shortcuts.

Not to mention the accuracy. Using the German layout reduces the chance of typos and misspelled words because you won’t accidentally hit the wrong key for “ä” or “ö.” This means your German writing will be cleaner and more professional.

German Keyboard Layout

Source: dsi-keyboards

Special Characters

1) Umlauts

In the German language, there are three distinct vowels with umlauts: ä, ö, and ü. On a QWERTZ keyboard, you’ll locate these characters adjacent to “P,” “L,” and “O,” respectively.

Getting used to these keys is crucial for precise spelling when typing in German.

2) Eszett

Located to the right of the “0” key on a QWERTZ keyboard, the Eszett (ß) plays a vital role in correctly spelling words like “groß” (large) or “Fußball” (soccer). The Eszett (ß) is a unique feature of the German language, denoting a double “S” sound.

Be careful! This is where the mistakes start happening.

3) Punctuation Marks

German keyboards are different when it comes to punctuation marks and symbols, such as semicolons, colons, etc.

For eg: the “@” symbol is accessed differently on a QWERTZ keyboard than it is on an English layout. Not to mention that quotation marks in German (,, “) differ from those in English (“ “)

Learn these variations properly as these are the building blocks of the German language. And you need to know German, then only you can use a German keyboard, right?

One more fun fact: semi-colon(;) and colon (:) are accessed by holding down the Shift key!

Typing Shortcuts in German Keyboard


Every language comes with its own set of shortcuts that make our lives easier. Can you imagine a world without shortcuts ?!

German is no exception to this rule. In this section, I’ll show you how to write in German layout on both PC and Mac, even without an accent key. This would help you to write faster and you are less likely to make errors (emphasis on less likely)

1) ß

The Eszett is used to represent a double “S” sound in German
(the “SS” sound). Use the following keys for this:

  • Windows: Alt Key+ 0223
  • Mac: Option + S

2) Umlauts

Umlauts refer to the 2 dots placed above certain vowels in German (ä, ö, ü). For typing these:

  • Mac: Option + U, release Option, then press the vowel. For capital letters, press Option + Shift.
  • Windows: Refer to the table below

Character

Combination

ä

0228

ö

0246

ü

0252

Ä

0196

Ö

0214

Ü

0220

Note: Use the numeric keyboard, not top-row numbers for Alt-codes

Once practiced, this becomes second nature and should feel natural to you without any problem.

3) @

It might seem tricky to type @ character first, but contrary to popular opinion, it isn’t. Here are your shortcuts for the same:

  • Windows: Alt+ Q
  • Mac: Option + L
German Keyboard Layout

Alternatives to German Keyboard Layout

If you’re not quite ready to dive into the German keyboard layout but still want to type in German comfortably, you have some friendly alternatives:

i) Keyboard Language Settings: You can use your keyboard in multiple languages. Cool right?! Just select German, and you can switch back whenever you want.

ii) Online Virtual Keyboards: Some websites and apps offer virtual keyboards for different languages, including German. You can use these when you need to type in German.

iii) Special Character Shortcuts: If you’re using a standard keyboard, you can mostly access German special characters (like ä, ö, ü, and ß) by using keyboard shortcuts. It takes a little practice, but it’s doable.

Train Your Memory

  1. Online Typing Tutors: There are cool websites like 10FastFingers and TypeLift that can help with typing. They’ve got exercises, tests, etc. made just for people learning German. You can practice typing words, sentences, or even whole paragraphs.
  2. Text Transcription: Here’s a hands-on approach. Try transcribing handwritten or printed German stuff into digital format. It’s like a little workout for your fingers.
  3. Write Emails and Messages: Make your German typing skills part of your daily life. Send emails or messages in German to friends or language exchange buddies. It’s super practical and gets you into the groove of typing like a pro. Plus, it’s fantastic for real-world situations.

Wrap Up

So, after spending some time with the German keyboard layout, here’s what I’ve got to share:

Typing in German with the dedicated QWERTZ layout makes it easy and relatively simple for someone switching over to German. Those umlauts and Eszett are right where you need them, so it does help.

But… I won’t sugarcoat it; there are a few cons too. If you frequently switch between languages, it can get tricky remembering where all the keys are. The first few days were especially frustrating, at least they were for me. Also, typing special characters like curly quotes and colons takes extra effort.

However, here’s the thing: with practice, those cons become minor hiccups. All in all, if you’re going to be using German, it’s worth a shot!

Happy Learning 🙂

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