Last Updated: February 25, 2016
· enno

International Characters on a US Keyboard (Windows)

The keyboard layout that's linked below behaves exactly like a US keyboard, with the exception of the Right-Alt key being a modifier to access the international characters.

Like many programmers, I use a US keyboard layout instead of my native German (or Scandinavian) keyboard. This makes programming easier, because I don’t need to put my right hand into contortions to get at the keys for angle brackets, curly braces, or the backslash, and I am able to use my coworkers’ computers and vice versa (except for those Dvorak types).

But sometimes, I want to write a letter home, and I need the Umlauts and all that other stuff. Switcheing keyboard layouts in Windows is a pain, because the current keyboard layout is not global, and my brain does not remember per-application state. Entering those 3-digit key codes is also awful, and impossible when your keyboard doesn't have a numeric keypad, like most laptops.

The United States International keyboard layout is almost fine, but the dead keys for accents and tilde are annoying if all you want to do is write code. Having to press space after each of these modifier keys gets annoying, fast. But Microsoft has published a tool that allows anyone to edit their own keyboard layout, and it lets you remove the dead keys.

Download the United States International (no dead keys) layout, install it, and enjoy.