White lettering reading äÄ üÜ öÖ ß on a black background

How to type German letters

While learning German, I’ve found the need to take some notes. There are a few letters in the German alphabet that aren’t available on an English keyboard layout, and I would find myself copying and pasting them in. I found that tedious, so I started looking into ALT codes on Windows and the shortcuts on Mac.

Characters, codes, and shortcuts

To start out with, here’s a table of the special characters and how to access them if you are able to use ALT codes or Mac shortcuts.

CharacterALT CodeMac Shortcut
ßALT+0223option + s
äALT+0228option + u a
ÄALT+0196option + u A
öALT+0246option + u o
ÖALT+0214option + u O
üALT+0252option + u u
ÜALT+0220option + u U

Mac shortcuts

I’ve found the Mac shortcuts to be the most straightforward. Following the table above, for the letters with an umlaut, press option and u at the same time, release, and press the vowel that you’d like with an umlaut above it. For ß, only option and s need to be pressed at the same time.


I’ve found Windows to be a bit more complicated. If you have a keyboard with a number pad and/or a num lock, I believe the ALT codes should work. To use the ALT code, hold down ALT while typing in the number associated with the letter in the table above. Unfortunately, if you’re like me and have a Windows laptop without a number pad or num lock, you won’t be able to use ALT codes. At least as far as I’ve found.

Auto Hot Key

To prevent myself from copying and pasting, I found a solution that is close to the Mac shortcuts. I installed Auto Hot Key, which is an application that will run certain commands or processes with a shortcut you specify. I’m oversimplifying what this application can do, so I suggest you check it out and read its documentation. It’s pretty awesome.

I’m not going to go into detail here on how to install and use Auto Hot Key, but I’ll show the script that I’m using to get Mac-like shortcuts for those German letters.

#NoEnv  ; Recommended for performance and compatibility with future AutoHotkey releases.
; #Warn  ; Enable warnings to assist with detecting common errors.
SendMode Input  ; Recommended for new scripts due to its superior speed and reliability.
SetWorkingDir %A_ScriptDir%  ; Ensures a consistent starting directory.

^!a::Send ä
^!+a::Send Ä
^!o::Send ö
^!+o::Send Ö
^!u::Send ü
^!+u::Send Ü
^!s::Send ß

When this script is running, I am able to press ctrl + alt + a and get ä, or ctrl + alt + shift + a and get Ä. I find it works quite well and allows me to keep a good flow while taking some notes.


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