British Keyboard Layout Is Superior To US Layout!

About two months ago I switched from the German (DE) keyboard layout to the British (GB) one, as I struggled with my new MacBook. The problem with Mac is that it is not possible to use DE in a development environment. The key issues are:

Some keys are misplaced (e.g. the @ is not on Alt Gr q but on Cmd l) There is no Alt Gr key. Both Alt keys (left and right) have the same function. It is not possible to switch only the left Alt and Cmd keys. On the one hand you can use both Alts and Alt Gr. This way you can access essential special characters like { or }. On the other hand you need both Alts to be able to use them as Meta key. It is not possible to use Alt Gr as Meta key. It would be nice if you could use the left one as Alt and the right one as Alt Gr, but this is not possible out of the box. There are some solutions to this specific problem for terminals, namely using iTerm2, but once you use other applications (like Emacs), you are stuck with the same problem.

This is why I switched to GB. I need to be able to use the same layout on Windows, Linux and Mac OS otherwise I get confused and my typing speed drops considerably. The two best alternatives I have identified are GB and the US keyboard layout (US).

Here are the main arguments I think are most relevant:

  • GB uses ISO standard (105 characters) while US uses ANSI standard (102 characters).
  • US does not support Alt Gr at all, while GB Alt Gr to access éúíóá and .
  • None supports German umlauts.
  • Both are equally good equipped for programming, as most special characters have the same position.
  • Switching between DE and GB is easy, they both use ISO and the keys are the same.
  • Switching between US and DE on an US keyboard is impossible with full character support. Obviously 102 < 105.
  • Using US on ISO keyboards is possible, but some characters are misplaced (e.g. |).
  • Buying US keyboards in Europe is more difficult and they are usually more expensive. This is also valid for laptops.
  • Most people in Europe use and own ISO keyboards. If they visit you they expect you to have DE.

The key arguments for me is the last one. If you use different computers or other people use yours you need to be able to switch between your preferred layout and DE. This is why I chose GB instead of US. Having that said, many of my friends and colleges use US and are happy with their decision.

The first week of the transitional process was very difficult for me, as I frequently hit the wrong keys. But after about a month my speed slowly increased to my original one and now I am quite used to GB. I do not regret my decision leaving the DE layout.