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How to type German words on an English keyboard

The German language has four characters that do not feature on most keyboards aimed at English speakers. These are the letters a, o and u with an umlaut (two dots) above them (ä, ö and ü), and the eszett (ß). Depending on your computer setup, you have several options for inserting these characters.

PC Keyboard with numeric keyboard

Check that the light marked "Num Lock" is marked on your keyboard. If it is not, press the button marked "Num Lock" on the numeric keyboard, usually found at the right of your keyboard.

Hold down the Alt button while typing the appropriate code using the numeric keyboard. The codes are as follows: 142=Ä, 132=ä, 153=Ö, 148=ö, 154=Ü, 129=ü, 225=ß.

Release the Alt button when you have typed the code.

Microsoft Word

For a lower case umlauted vowel, hold down the "ctrl", "shift" and colon (":") keys. Then release all three keys and then press the "a", "o" or "u" key to get the letter with an umlaut.

For an upper case umlauted vowel, press and release the "Caps Lock" key, then hold down the "ctrl", "shift" and colon (":") keys. Now release all three keys and press the "a", "o" or "u" key to get the upper case letter with an umlaut.

For a eszett, hold down the "ctrl", "shift" and ampersand ("$") keys. Then release all three keys and then press the "s" key.

Mac

For a lower case umlauted vowel, hold the "option" key and the "u" key. Then release both keys and press the "a", "o" or "u" key to get the umlauted letter.

For an upper case umlauted vowel, press and release the "Caps Lock" key. Next hold the "option" key and the "u" key. Then release both keys and press the "a", "o" or "u" key to get the umlauted letter.

For an eszett, hold the "option" key, then press the "s" key.

Website

Visit the TypeIt website (see Resources) if you are using a different system or cannot get any other method to work.

Type in the words or sentences that contain the German symbols. Click on the appropriate button to insert the letter with the symbol. Hold down your "Shift" key and click the appropriate button to insert an upper case letter with an umlaut.

Use your computer's cut and paste tools to put the text into your document. In many cases these are activated by "Ctrl" + "C" and "Ctrl" + "V" respectively.

Tip

Some computers may use different wording next to the number lock indicator light. For example, your computer may have a padlock symbol with a number in it.

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About the Author

A professional writer since 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, John Lister ran the press department for the Plain English Campaign until 2005. He then worked as a freelance writer with credits including national newspapers, magazines and online work. He specializes in technology and communications.