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Think About Switching to An US International Keyboard Layout

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If you are a person who works on a computer for many hours a day and who needs to type some code here and there, I urge you to switch to a US-International keyboard layout. This also includes non-English speaking and typing people like me.

At first sight, this US-international keyboard layout seems to be a bad choice especially for German speaking and typing people like me. However, there are really good reasons to do the switch.

My mother language is German. One of the well-known "funny" things about German are the Umlauts: ö, ü, ä. Sometimes people also add ß to the list of German Umlauts. With an US-international keyboard layout, you have to use dead keys to type Umlauts: you get ü by typing " followed by u. Same holds for ä (" and a) and ö (" and o). The ß you get with AltGr and s. As a cool benefit, you also get characters like é or à via ' and e, and ` followed by a, respectively. This is really intuitive to me, compared to the German standard layout.

You will notice that some keyboard shortcuts suddenly start to make sense. They are often designed to be used on an US keyboard where German keyboard layouts do require additional modifier keys. For example, all shortcuts using <, >, [, ], {, and } for some action related to left/right are much easier to reach on an US-international keyboard layout.

When coding or using a decent shell, you are very much enjoying the direct access to frequently used characters like [, ], \, or /. Only a shift away are {, }, |, @, and ^. For me, this is the biggest advantage for advanced computer users or coders. In my daily work, I have to type those special characters much more frequent than the German Umlaut characters.

Meanwhile, I only order my personal notebooks with US-international keyboard layouts. In case I have to use a business computer that was ordered with a German QWERTZ keyboard, I usually apply keyboard stickers to turn it into a US-international keyboard layout.

Comments

Here is a German email comment from Peter who is mentioning the Neo-layout:

Hallo Karl,
dieselbe Beobachtung mit dem US-Tastaturlayout habe ich auch gemacht; ich bin auch ein Emacs-User.
Mir ist letztes Jahr das Neo-Layout über den Weg gelaufen, also ich nach einer optimalen Tastaturbelegung gesucht hatte. Ich habe in deinem Blog nichts zu Neo gefunden, deshalb lasse ich hier die Info da. Aber wahrscheinlich kennst du das schon.
Im Neo-Layout ist die Ebene 3 interessant, die man auch getrennt ohne die Neo-spezifische Buchstabenbelegung nutzen kann. So liegen die Klammern, etc alle schöne auf der Homerow.
Viele Grüße aus Ulm, Peter

Hi Peter, the Neo-Layout is one of the keyboard layouts who are optimized so that most frequently used characters are easy to type. It is interesting to know that the default keyboard layout most people are using on their computer was actually designed to slow down the typing process in order to avoid typebars to collide and jam the machine.

I personally did not try out alternative layouts yet because I did not want to learn a layout which is that different from the default layouts. Poor excuse, I agree. If you want to optimize your typing speed and usability, alternative layouts such as the Neo are certainly the way to go.

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