Switch Between Keyboards on Mac

Say you have different keyboard layouts cause you’re bilingual and need access to accents or different alphabets. The normal way to switch between these two keyboards would be to show the keyboard icon on the top Menu bar and simply click on the icon and choose the keyboard layout you wish to use.

Although this works, it’s a bit annoying to mess with the mouse in search of a tiny keyboard layout icon when you just want to hop in to a keyboard layout to get an accented character, then return back to the original that you were just using.

To the rescue: Input Menu, hidden deep within System Preferences => Keyboard & Mouse => Keyboard Shortcuts => Input Menu (greyed out)

The reason Input Menu is disabled by default is that its historic keyboard shortcut has been taken over by Spotlights: Apple Key + Spacebar.

Keyboard and Mouse Preferences - Keyboard Shortcuts - Input Menu

For me, I hardly ever use Spotlight, since I’m on the Quicksilver launcher train, which pretty much circumvents my need of Spotlight, so I’m happy to give up Command + Spacebar to be able to toggle back and forth nearly instantaneously between keyboards (French AZERTY and English QWERTY). (See the great things you can do with Quicksilver here).

If you’re hot on Spotlight, simply choose a different keyboard shortcut for either Spotlight or Input Menu => Select the Previous Input Source. You can do this by double clicking on the shortcut in question and pressing the new keyboard combination to replace it with.





5 responses to “Switch Between Keyboards on Mac”

  1. Kriszti Kotka Avatar
    Kriszti Kotka

    Could you guys help me out because I’ve been searching for ever… I’m regularly using three different keyboard layouts, that is, three alphabets. I’m trying to find a keyboard shortcut that could switch among all three of them, but I can’t! When I do the above described shortcut (enabling “select the previous input source”), it only ends up switching between the first two layouts, and completely ignores the third one; I have to click on it with the mouse to enable it, and this way the shortcut loses its significance.

    Any ideas are welcome! Thanks! (:o)

  2. Sherali Avatar

    Tiger had a nice ability of keeping your keyboard layout per-application. I normally need English layout in my IDE or Terminal whereas an alternative layout in my IM chat window.

    The feature seems to have been lost in Leopard. It no longer maintains the chosen layout per-application and the switch works on a global scale.

    Am I the only one seeing this or is this intentional in Leopard? Is there a way to get it back?

  3. ulrich Avatar

    Awesome! So simple, yet took me long to discover.

    What if you use an external keyboard with a different layout. Is it possible to automatically switch between layouts if I use the external one?


  4. Samuli S. Avatar
    Samuli S.

    This option seems to be missing on my OS 10.5.8 setup. WTH? Was it removed at some point? I really need this to work to get some photoshop shortcuts working (the ones that are not user-definable).

    screenshot: http://www.samulisiirala.net/scrshot-missingmenuopt.png

  5. Samuli S. Avatar
    Samuli S.

    Ok, I was being clueless and desperate after searching for this for weeksโ€ฆ I have to have several keyboard setups selected in “International” to see “Input menu”.

    Thanks, absolutely fantastic tip! Now I’ll design a macro to switch keyboard layout on demand, punch a PS keyboard shortcut in US layout and then switch back. Brilliant!

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