Is there a way to define (OSX natively, or alternatively: through some program) a global keyboard shortcut for a single letter plus diacritic, say: ctrl+alt+A gives "ä", ideally globally?

Note: I am aware of various ways to access diacritics faster (e.g. the "key repeat" diacritics menu), but I'd like to know if there's some way to get the exact behavior described above.

Does anyone knows if this is possible in OSX, and if so, how?

(EDIT) Thanks to a comment, I realize I should clarify my question.

I don't really care which modifier key I have to press, but what I want to do is:

[some modifier, e.g. alt or ctrl, or if necessary: two of them]


[some letter]

=> [a single letter with diacritic]

Now, I know that "alt-u plus letter" produces the corresponding "Umlaut" letter, but it's not exactly the same as the shortcut I ask about above. Ideally I would have the above version of a shortcut, because it is slightly unintuitive to me, and therefore a bit slower, to press a different vowel first, "u", when I really want to produce another vowel afterwards, say, an "a" with diacritic, i.e. "ä".

So I am really just wondering: can I bind a shortcut as described above producing a single (Umlaut) letter of my choice.

  • alt/u then a will do that in 2 keypresses anyway
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 25, 2016 at 12:53
  • Thanks for the suggestion. I agree, this might be the closest I've seen to what I am trying to do, but unfortunately it doesn't answer the question whether there's a way to bind a particular letter+diacritic to a modifer+key combination globally in OSX. Apr 25, 2016 at 13:03
  • alt/u then a should always work as long as the US keyboard layout is active. What do you think might not be "global" about it exactly? Some 3rd party app? Apple does not normally use ctrl for special characters, only alt and alt plus shift. Is using ctrl the key factor for you? Apr 25, 2016 at 13:21
  • I see now... my question was phrased a bit unclear, I will update it to clarify. Thanks! Apr 25, 2016 at 13:56
  • If the shortcuts provided by Apple are not to your liking, you ca use the Ukelele or Karabiner apps to bind alt keys any way you want. Apr 25, 2016 at 17:10

1 Answer 1


The Karabiner and Ukelele apps should be able to bind keys the way you are requesting:



  • Confirming: Karabiner has a pre-defined option (under options for German) with the exact intended behavior. Thanks a lot! Apr 25, 2016 at 18:35

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