US International keyboard layout

US International keyboard layout

I started using the US International keyboard layout yesterday and absolutely
love it!
To be precise, the “English (US) English (international AltGr dead keys)“.
The alternative “US international with dead keys” is way to complicated to use, see below.

Reasons to switch

The “Swiss (German)” layout sucks when it comes to programming.
Check these pictures or click to enlarge (AltGr is for blue symbols):

Swiss German:


With Swiss layout, all special caracters are in unusual places, many of them require the
/ : Shift-7
[]{} : AltGr + right pinky finger
| : AltGr+7

In Windows, you can use left “Ctrl+Alt” for AltGr, without this in Linux “|”
is “right thumb” and “right forefinger” on “7” …
I have large hands, but that is insane!

And using vim with such a layout, forget it!
So I searched around for a solution and this is it.


While the list of Cons might seem long, I think it’s well worth switching.
Actually this way I finally improve on 10-finger system when it comes to


All the symbols in IT suddenly make sense – used is what is easily typeable.
Shell scripting, programming, everything in IT becomes easier.
Using vim is a dream [period]


Learning new keymap

yz : are switched, this is really weird
: : used to be shift-.
-_ : was at convenient “/” position
$! : small difficulties

The other keys were not even a big problem. They were in such bad positions that I
often looked at the keyboard to type them anyways.
Or they are at same position without modifier or shift instead of AltGr, etc.

Umlauts “äöü” : using AltGr-[pyq]. Haven’t typped a German text though I can’t
tell about them. But this AltGr-solution is way better then “US-international
with deadkeys”.

So after all, all letters and numbers are the same and the rest was hard to
learn before anyways. I very quickly picked up, within a day most symbols were memorized.


US keyboards are not available here or must be ordered. And I use a laptop.
So I’ll be stuck with keyboards with false layout printed on.
Somehow this is also a plus – it improves my 10-finger typing.

The layout still slightly differs around the return key, but not by much.

And I have an extra key – funny!
The US left-shift is longer and we have an extra key there. Having a
longer left-shift would be nice, but the key has the same values “<>” as
before, so it’s even a slight plus.

Maybe mapping the minus “-” there … but then it would have to be generally,
not just in X. Any ideas?

My backup laptop does not even have a right-Ctrl key.
The row right of space has 4, yes four, keys, but no Ctrl-key!
AltGr, then some menu-picture, then “Ins”, then the Windows-key.
I was able to map the Windows-key to Ctrl, but this layout sucks.
Luckily the laptop is ancient and only used as backup.



Learning vim was the key motivation to switch and learning it helps a lot.
Not only is it the best editor ever – emacs untried ;-) – but it also helps at
learning the new position of symbols.

GNU Typist

Another genious tool. I’ve paid for a typing tutor software but never improved
much – somehow too much moved on my screen.
GNU Typist emerge -av gtypist looked very primitive and plain,
but that helps me concentrate while all needed functionality is easily

Alternative: US international with dead keys

Inferior solution imho!
It does not have an AltGr key, the key serves as right-Alt.
Instead it has dead keys: The do nothing until a second key is pressed.

ä : shift-‘ (ä on Swiss kb) then “a”
ö : shift-‘ then o
‘ : ‘ then space
” : shift-‘ then space

The umlaut-characters are more complicated to type and many symbols require typing complicated patterns.
I’d stick with the Swiss German keyboard before this one!


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