Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Why I Switched to US Keyboard Layout / Using an US Keyboard Layout in Germany

As a German guy, some of my colleagues are constantly annoyed by the fact that I use the US keyboard layout instead of the German one. Even on a actually German keyboard (keys labelled the QWERTZ way). So I decided to explain why I use the US keyboard when I type.

The first glance on a real-life US keyboard, in 2006, showed me that it would be way better for programming. Like an epiphany it hit me, that some weird, arbitrary decisions like { , }  for blocks, or like [ and ] for arrays, which were really annoying to type on a German keyboard were a piece of cake on an US keyboard.

2005 I had to type some seminar stuff at college in LaTeX. After some pages, filled with backslashes, opening and closing braces, and some few square brackets my right hand hurt. Pressing Alt Gr + 7 or Alt Gr + 0 all day long was too much for me. I hated LaTeX. I don't remember I had some troublesome experience in 2007, when I wrote my diploma thesis in LaTeX.

I would recommend every programmer to use the US keyboard layout. It's so much easier to type stuff like var a = function () { return [1, 2, 3]; };. Or stuff like @twitter, just because you don't need the crappy Alt Gr.

I think you might ask yourself: Well, but how do you handle the umlaut problem? On your favorite keyboard layout, you don't have ä, Ü or even the nice ß, my dear Lorenz.

I have three solutions for you:

The first one is to configure your system that way, so that you switch with a shortcut anytime between US and German keyboard layout.

  • Advantages: You always have both keyboard layout anytime you want. You can switch any time you want.
  • Disadvantages: You will make tons of "mode" errors. You will type y instead of z, * instead of ( very often. It will annoy you. It annoyed me. But still better than Alt Gr + 7
The second one is to learn the codes for the umlauts. In Windows, you can write ü by typing Alt + 321. I think you get the idea.
  • Advantages: Once you know, it's really fast. Mode error are excluded.
  • Disadvantages: You have to learn them.
The third one I found about today: On a Windows system, you can install this pretty neat tool from Microsoft: The Microsoft Keyboard Layout Generator.  Load the US keyboard layout, modify it the way you want, so you can insert the umlauts the way you like. Give it a try.

  • Advantages: No learning. No modes.
  • Disadvantages: Works only in Windows.

Try it for yourself.

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