I'm used to a German QWERTZ keyboard layout, but an accident, involving coffee, rendered my cheap bluetooth keyboard unusable. It acted like the Shift key got stuck (zooming webpages in and out instead of scrolling).

Since my laptop is setup up on a tray with a second monitor, using the laptop keyboard was no option, so I bought a new one1, but with QWERTY layout.

A different keyboard layout means messing with my muscle memory, but why not. Leave your comfort zone they said, it will be fun and you learn something new.

QWERTY layout is the most common in the English speaking world and since almost all2 programming languages are in english, this should be an improvement, especially to reach bracket keys { } ( ) etc. much faster.

I could leave the German layout on the QWERTY kezboard (sic!), but I bet the cognitive dissonance to hit the ü key to print [ is much worse.

So I went down the rabbit hole on how to setup everything the (my) best way.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. -- Abraham Lincoln3

Setup multiple keyboard layouts in Windows 10

Everything you need to know is described here: How to change keyboard layout on Windows 10 | Windows Central

I installed German and English (United States) and two English keyboard layouts. US QWERTY and English, US (International) QWERTY

Isn't one English layout enough?

I guess so. The specialty of US-International is that you can easily write Umlauts with special key combinations like " and then u that prints out ü.4

On the other side, I use a lot " for writing code and since " has a special meaning here, I need to hit " and then Space to write "u which is maybe annoying. So I just switch to US QWERTY and be done. And if I need to write text in German I can switch back.

Alternatively you can also use the AltGr key and type the special chars directly as shown in the following graphic. The Wikipedia page linked before is mentioning that.

Quickly change layout

Use the Win + Space keyboard shortcut to rotate through all layouts without using the mouse and switch it in the task bar.

Keyboard specific assignment of layouts

I mentioned that I operate a German QWERTZ laptop with a QWERTY bluetooth keyboard and sometimes I just use the laptop keyboard, when on the run.

There is a tiny piece oft software called RightKeyboard that switches to the correct keyboard layout, depending on the connected keyboard.

You can download an updated, portable version that's working on Windows 10 if you are fearless. Why fearless? Because depending on your browser/anti-virus software you will be warned that this is malicious code. Why? Because it has the characteristics of a key-logger, since it is hooking into communication between the keyboard and operation system. Decide yourself!

Conclusion

I wrote this text with the new QWERTY keyboard and of course I had to correct kezboard and lazout more than once. But I'm positive that this exercise will rewire my brain and gives me super powers.

Also, suddenly Markdown formatting is much easier to write. But I'm still searching for certain punctuation keys and brackets.

Links


  1. Exact same model, just missing the bluetooth connector button on the back.  

  2. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21352508 

  3. Quote is wrongly attributed to Lincoln, but if find myself in that situation often enough. To Cut Down a Tree in Five Minutes Spend Three Minutes Sharpening Your Axe – Quote Investigator 

  4. https://superuser.com/a/1142932/770792