Saturday, 6 March 2010

Typing the special German characters ä Ä ö Ö ü Ü ß

Here are six methods for Microsoft Windows.

1. The way I prefer is to use the Windows language bar to switch the keyboard layout to German QWERTZ layout. The physical keys are still labelled for English use but it’s not difficult. Z and Y are swapped but the other 24 letters of the English alphabet stay in place for German.

For a larger picture and licensing details see

Microsoft also offer Visual Keyboard to make it easier to work with different keyboard layouts.

2. Another method is to use the Windows Character Map
 to enter the special characters. In Windows XP this is listed under Start>Accessories>System Tools. With Character Map the full range of printable characters is displayed in a rectangular grid. Click on the one you want, click the Select button and then click Copy. This puts it on your clipboard ready for you to paste into your document. Note: some programs let you drag the character across from Character Map.

You could select all the special German characters before pressing copy. That way you can use the clipboard to put them all in at the end of your document and copy and paste the individual characters when you need them. Or why not put them into a document that you can have open in another Window whenever you are typing German text.
3. All the characters are encoded to a number. If you have a numeric keypad (many laptops don’t) make sure Num Lock is on and hold down the Alt key (the one on the left) while using the numeric keypad to enter the 4-digit decimal version of the number code. The numbers are shown below and you do have to enter the leading zero.
ä 0228
Ä 0196
ö 0246
Ö 0214
ü 0252
Ü 0220
ß 0223

Those I have given were looked up in Character Map but I realised after that you should find sources listing all or most of the range of foreign language character from an internet search. Three words would do it - typing foreign characters.

4. You could try using the US- International keyboard layout - see;en-us;306560 for full details.

If you are used to the normal English keyboard, note that the QUOTATION MARK (“) key is swapped with the @ key. When you press “ nothing appears on the screen until you press another character. If the next character is a, A, o, O, u or U then instead of a quotation mark and character you get the character with an umlaut above.

You can also hold down the right Alt key (sometimes labelled Alt Gr) and then a character key as follows

Right Alt + q produces ä

Right Alt + Q produces Ä
Right Alt + p produces ö
Right Alt + P produces Ö
Right Alt + y produces ü
Right Alt + Y produces Ü
Right Alt + s produces ß
5. Use typeit an online tool for typing in different languages. To type German text go to This also handles the German open and close quote symbols „open-close“
6. Install software so you have an on screen keyboard for foreign language characters.

Examples are FrKeys, PopChar, Foreign Characters 5.75, Type International Characters 2.0, Langpad-German Characters. Many of these are Shareware so they are free to download and try but you are encouraged to send a small payment to the software author if you like and use the program. Please be cautious when going to free download sites, some sites may present security risks for your computer system.

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