How to Change the Keyboard Language Being Typed with a Keystroke in Mac OS X
If you’re bilingual, trilingual, or even just use an alternate keyboard input method from QWERY like DVORAK, you can make your typing life much easier by setting up a keyboard shortcut in Mac OS X that instantly changes the typed language. This shifts the keyboard to your other language or typing layout option(s), from an English keyboard to Chinese keyboard for example, with a quick keystroke entry. Additionally, we’ll cover a simple trick that provides a system-wide indicator of what is the currently active language or keyboard being used on the Mac, so you’ll always know exactly what language is active without having to type to find out.
This should probably go without saying, but you’ll need at least one other keyboard input source or language added to OS X for this to work, otherwise there’s nothing to switch between. If you haven’t added the other language keyboard yet but are waiting to do so, that can be done through System Preferences > Keyboard > Input Sources > and clicking the + plus button to select your language(s) of choice. That’s also where you can add another keyboard layout, like DVORAK.
Set the Language Switching Keyboard Shortcut for Mac OS X
This trick makes switching your active typing language as simple as a keystroke:
- Open System Preferences in OS X and go to “Keyboard” panel
- Choose the “Keyboard” tab and check the box for “Show Keyboard & Character Viewers in menu bar” – this enables a handy indicator in the menu bar to let you know what language / keyboard is currently active, more on this in a moment
- Now go to the “Shortcuts” tab and click on “Input Sources”
- Check the box next to “Select next source in Input Menu”, then click the cursor into the field to the right to set the keyboard shortcut to switch the language – in this example we used Command+Shift+Option+Spacebar but you can pick whatever you want that doesn’t conflict with another keyboard shortcut
- Open TextEdit or another text editing application to test it out, then hit your keyboard shortcut (or ours; Command+Shift+Option+Spacebar) to switch the keyboard and/or language being typed
- Close out of System Preferences once confirmed to be working
Switching the Keyboard Languages with the Keystroke
You can hit the same keyboard shortcut again to switch back to English or whatever the other language setting is. Or, if you have more than two languages and keyboards added to the Mac, you hitting the keystroke will simply toggle to the next one.
If you use the virtual onscreen keyboard you’ll notice that language or keyboard layout changes there too.
This works really well, and yes it shifts the spelling tool and autocorrect as well if you’re in a new language with a respective dictionary. Using a keyboard shortcut is much faster to switch the current language than doing so manually through the keyboard input menu, this is really probably the fastest way to toggle keyboards and languages in OS X. Speaking of that input menu, let’s enable one final option that’s really handy.
Enable a Keyboard / Language Indicator in the Mac Menu Bar
In the second step above, we enabled an optional menu item for the keyboard, now we’re going to make that even better by turning it into a live language indicator for OS X:
- Pull down the input menu (usually displays a flag of the default keyboard type), and select “Show Input Source Name”
That’s it, now when you hit the aforementioned keyboard shortcut that you just set, you’ll also see a visual indicator in the menubar of which keyboard and/or language is currently active in Mac OS X.