Skip to main content
Making sense of old handwriting

Keyboard Tips for Transcribing


During transcription, there is a fundamental need for the transcriber to be able to render all the standard German characters. For a transcriber using an English-speaker's keyboard, the needed letters of ä, ö, ü, ß, Ä, Ö, Ü and sometimes the y-umlaut: ÿ and Ÿ are unavailable. To implement them into your transcription, try the methods below.

Toggle to a German Keyboard

In the settings of your computer you can toggle your keyboard to the standard German set-up. This will give you access to the modern German characters. This is the best choice if you write in German often and you are able to get used to the different keyboard setup. For how to do this in windows see the Microsoft support page on it.

Alt Code

To type characters with Alt code (in Microsoft Windows termed as “Keystroke”), you hold down the “Alt” button (for Windows) or “option” button (for MacOS) and type the appropriate number with your number pad. Alt Code tends to work with online programs, though requires use of a number pad.

Useful Alt Codes and their Corresponding Letters

Alt CodeGerman Letter
132 ä 
148 ö 
129 ü 
225 ß 
142 Ä 
153 Ö 
154 Ü 
152 ÿ 
0159 Ÿ 

Unicode Hexadecimal Number (Windows only)

To type characters using a Unicode hexadecimal number, you type the hexadecimal number associated with your desired character then press the “Alt” key and the “x” key simultaneously. This will toggle the previous hexadecimal number to its corresponding character. This method works with any number input keys, however it does not work with common online applications (it however works fine with ‘desktop’ word processors like Microsoft Word).

Useful Unicode Hexadecimal Numbers and their Corresponding Letters

Unicode NumberGerman Letter
00E4 ä 
00F6 ö 
00FC ü 
00DF ß 
00C4 Ä 
00D6 Ö 
00DC Ü 
00FF ÿ 
0178 Ÿ 

MacOS only Umlaut Typing

An additional way to type letters with umlauts on using macOS is to press “option” and “u” simultaneously, releasing those and pressing the letter you want umlauts over.