Using multiple keyboard layouts

Written early in the afternoon in English • Tags: , ,

Hitting Alt Left Shift is second nature to me by now — that’s how you switch keyboard layouts in Windows. I use the U.S. keyboard layout for most things: not just writing in English but also at the Unix command prompt or when writing code. But when chatting in Finnish, the Finnish keyboard layout is a must (for “ääkköset”).

On Mac OS X it is possible to implement something similar, but different.

It is not possible to use the same key combination — I guess Mac OS X doesn’t like acting on just modifiers. So I’m already struggling with having to hit Option Space.1 To add insult to injury, by default Mac OS also doesn’t remember the keyboard layout per window like Windows does. In addition to switching windows I also have to remember to keep switching the layout. (I’m not the only one considering this a problem.2)

Fortunately in Snow Leopard there is an option to have the layout remembered “per document.” Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to work with all applications, most notably with Chrome.

Here are the settings I’m using:

  • System Preferences > Language & Text > Input Sources
  • Select Finnish and U.S.
  • Under Input source options click on Allow a different one for each document
  • Click on Keyboard Shortcuts… to switch to Kerboard preferences
  • Select Keyboard & Text Input on the left
  • On the right, set the shortcut for Select next source in Input menu to Option Space

This is great in some applications, for example in Terminal even each tab remembers its keyboard layout now. But when switching to Chrome, the layout doesn’t change: it stays at the layout of the previous window.

Update: See Total keyboard control for implementing Alt-Left-Shift.

  1. Control Space is Quicksilver and Command Space is Spotlight. 

  2. InputSwitcher was created specifically to address this issue.