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?

  • Purely out of curiosity, what does ⌘Ä do? Dec 16, 2012 at 18:29
  • 1
    Forward/Backward are on ⌘Ä/⌘Ö, e.g. in Finder or Terminal (there it's next/prev tab).
    – nohillside
    Dec 16, 2012 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, 2012 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.
    – Lri
    Dec 17, 2012 at 6:17
  • Consider enabling the on screen keyboard. It allows you to see where shortcuts are physically placed. Dec 17, 2012 at 13:02

2 Answers 2


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";

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.

  • 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 Dec 17, 2012 at 13:04
  • That is my understanding also.
    – Daniel
    Dec 17, 2012 at 13:26

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