Writing in different languages

A way to write in different languages using the same keyboard settings

Having a single computer keyboard (for instance, a US keyboard) and writing in different languages can be a hassle. My children speak German, Spanish, and English, and when they use the computer, it can happen now and then that they want to write a specific character for the target language that the keyboard doesn’t provide.
Switching between one configuration to another in the Windows Taskbar is ineffective, especially if you are writing in several languages in the same session. It isn’t enjoyable to double-check the settings on your laptop before writing anything, and you can’t always remember the keyboard layout for each language you use.
Figure 1 below shows the taskbar configured to change from one language to the other.

Figure 1: Keyboard languages configuration

A long time ago, a friend of mine showed me an elementary, but powerful scripting language for Windows called Autohotkey. Ever since I have used it at work, I programmed some hotkeys with this tool to create the most common punctuation signs and letters in Spanish and German. Now, for instance, if I want to write words like “Árbol,” “canción,” or “niño,” all they have to do is type:

“ca# rbol”, “canci oo# n” or “ni nn#o”

And the correct punctuation will come out.

Similarly, if I want to write something in German, such as “Straße,” “Mühle,” or “schön,” I can do it like this:

“Stra ss#e”, “M ue#le” or “sch oe#n”

In figure 2 below, you can see how the actual script works:

Figure 2: Writing with characters

As you can see, to write the needed character, I start writing the word, and then:


so the selected character will substitute the hotkey.

I have created a whole set of shortcuts and hotkeys, and now I use them to write more efficiently at work and home.

It is possible to create a portable executable file; once you compile your code, simply bring it to a new computer, place it in the Windows Startup folder and it will run every time you turn it on.

I also created a cheat sheet in case I forget one of the hotkeys. It appears each time I press <Cntrl> J.

The programming is straightforward; you take a look at the sample code of my script in Figure 3 below:

Figure 3: Code to write the vowels with the Spanish accents

I highly recommend you to take a look at this easy scripting tool, but since I am not here to sell it to you, and by the way, it is free and open-source, so you don’t have to purchase anything. It doesn’t connect to the web and doesn’t send any data; then its usage is pretty safe. I am leaving here a light version of my executable script for you to use if you would like to write German or Spanish characters on a different keyboard. Just download it using the link below, unpack it and run it.



Citizen of the World, systems thinker, automotive embedded systems leader, and language lover. I write about what’s in my head and keeps me awake.

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