The short question: how do you handle multiple keyboard layouts without getting confused?

I'm a fast writer. I've been using the default Swedish, QWERTY PC keyboard layout on Linux, DOS and Windows for more than 20 years.

But recently I got a MacBook with Swedish layout. But the keyboard layout is horrible when used for programming: I have to strain my hand to get some very common characters such as:

| \ { }

(To get those I have to hit Alt+7, Alt+Shift+7, Alt+Shift+8 and Alt+Shift+9. And also the Alt key is moved to the right so I have to like turn my hand to hit Alt with my thumb, Shift with my little finger and the numeric key with whatever finger that can reach them ...)

So I've switched to using English layout, since it is much easier when programming. But as soon as I must write some text in my language (Swedish) it slows me down to not have access to the special characters (å, ä, ö). Also, there is no common method to get these characters that works on all systems (Windows, Linux, OSX) when using an English layout. So I typically switch back to Swedish layout when I'm writing any text in my language.

As I'm still using both Windows and Linux almost as much as the MacBook I also have the problem with different shortcuts (for example Cmd+C and Cmd+V instead of Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V for copy/paste).

All in all this has slowed me down tremendously, not feeling at home with any layout anymore since I constantly have to switch layouts depending on what system I'm using and what task I'm working on.

So I guess the question is: what tricks have you found to help with this problem? I guess its mainly a question for users used to a non-English keyboard layout.

  • I found myself in the same situation after moving back to Sweden 18 months ago. Putting characters commonly used in programming and in the shell on AltGr+<right-hand-key> is terrible. On Linux I've resorted to remap \~ onto qw (with AltGr) and {[]} onto asdf (with AltGr). It takes a bit of re-learning, but it takes away the strain on the right hand at least. I'm very interested in hearing other suggestion for how to deal with it, especially if there's a cross-platform solution. – Magnus Jan 4 '13 at 11:21
  • Currently I've remapped the keyboard layout so that to get the swedish characters I use alt+(the keys usually used for swedish characters). Alt+[ gives å, and so on. – Jonatan Mar 2 '18 at 10:16

Got similar problem with german characters on my mac. In OS X I use KeyRemap4Macbook. It allows to set remapping based on the the current application - so I use the default mapping for most apps - but set to specific mappings for my programming. Also you can map left and right modifier keys separately (getting one Alt and one Alt-Gr eg)

I have been looking for a similar app for Windows - but couldn't find so far. I remember seeing a similar tool for linux - but can't recall the name.

update maybe check the options presented at alternativeto - there seem to be some for any os.


I work mostly with an English layout, when I need to enter Spanish or Portuguese characters I switch the layout with Alt-RightShift (Windows|Linux (i3wm)), it shifts through my defined layout list on this way EN->ES->PT->EN->..

For Linux I created a shell script who allows me to do this shift-keyboard-layout, on Windows it just works.

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