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I'm using a Mac laptop with German set as the preferred language (the keyboard, however, is a standard US keyboard). With this setting, some keyboard shortcuts include the characters Ä, Ö, and Ü. E.g. ⌘Ä (command-Ä), ⌘Ö (command-Ö), ⌘Ü (command-Ü), etc.

Now, I produce Ä by first pressing ⌥-u (Option-u), and then pressing ⇧-a (Shift-a). I can't figure out any way of using this method to produce the equivalent of ⌘Ä (command-Ä). The same goes for for Ö and Ü.

Is there some way to produce these keyboard shortcuts on a US keyboard?

share|improve this question
Purely out of curiosity, what does ⌘Ä do? – Jason Salaz Dec 16 '12 at 18:29
Forward/Backward are on ⌘Ä/⌘Ö, e.g. in Finder or Terminal (there it's next/prev tab). – patrix Dec 16 '12 at 18:33
Look into KeyRemap4MacBook if you want to remap the existing keyboard so that those various umlaut keys exist as pressable and non command key activated keys on any keyboard layout. – bmike Dec 16 '12 at 18:50
@bmike I couldn't get the German Umlaute on US Keyboard Layout setting to work. It changes ⌥; to ⌥UO, but ⌥⌘; doesn't go back in Finder. – user495470 Dec 17 '12 at 6:17
Consider enabling the on screen keyboard. It allows you to see where shortcuts are physically placed. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Dec 17 '12 at 13:02
up vote 2 down vote accepted

You can change the shortcuts from System Preferences:

They can also be changed with defaults. The shortcut format is described in the Cocoa Text System article.


defaults write -g NSUserKeyEquivalents '{
"Vorherigen Tab auswahlen" = "~@\UF702";
"Nächsten Tab auswahlen" = "~@\UF703";
"Zurück" = "@\UF702";
"Vorwärts" = "@\UF703";
share|improve this answer
That's definitely the way to go, thanks! – kjo Dec 17 '12 at 11:04

This may seem metaphysical, but you cannot press a key that does not exist. Despite the lack of a physical Ä key on the U.S. Keyboard, you can, however set the keyboard layout to the German keyboard layout. Alternately, you could create a modified keyboard layout starting from the standard U.S. Keyboard layout that includes a Ä key.

The operation of changing the layout is the simplest to accomplish:

  • Go to System Preferences » Language & Text » Input Sources
  • Enable the German layout (and also make sure the "Show Input menu in menu bar" box is checked).
  • In the Input menu, select the German layout.

Then, pressing the physical ' keys will produce the Ä sequence. Likewise for ; producing Ö and [ producing Ü. After typing that keystroke, you can use the menu to switch back to your desired keyboard layout.

share|improve this answer
As I understand it, a given keyboard does not know what is printed on the keys - that is a locale setting mapping physically located keys into characters. Hence it is just locating the appropriate key for the given combination even if it is an English keyboard. It may miss the key just right of the left shift key, but that should not be a problem her.e – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Dec 17 '12 at 13:04
That is my understanding also. – Daniel Dec 17 '12 at 13:26

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