Different Input and OS languages on your Mac

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Wow. As opposed to Windows XP, Macintosh continues to be a breeze as far as usability is concerned. Recently, a few friends asked me how to enable Korean keyboard input on their new Macs (I helped convince one friend to buy his). Since I’ve done this a number of times (and had a number of requests for help), I decided to make a blog post about it.

From what I remembered, Mac OSX comes installed with most every language by default, and adding language input or even switching OS languages is as simple as a few button clicks. In fact, there is a trick necessary if you only want a mono-lingual install of OSX in order to save some hard drive space (as opposed to WinXP’s default mono-lingual install that requires a different trick to change languages). However, it wasn’t until I went back in to my own system to check things out that I realized exactly how simple working with different languages is. Below are step-by-step instructions for how to enable different language input, and how to change OS languages completely.

Different Language Input

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1. Open System Preferences

System Preferences is often located by default in the Mac OS dock bar at the bottom (default) of the screen.  Otherwise, you can always go into your Applications folder within Finder to open it.

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2. Click the “International” Icon

Within System Preferences, under the first heading “Personal,” you should see an icon that looks like a UN flag with the title “International.” Click it.

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3. Click the Third Tab “Input Menu”

The picture above shows what “International” looks like when it’s first opened. The third tab (Input Menu) is what you want. Click it.

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4. Choose the languages you want to enable for input

The image above shows the Input Menu tab within International. From here, you can scroll up or down to choose which languages you’d like to enable for keyboard input (for Korean, choose 3-Set Korean -> the keyboard layout and input will be the same as a computer from Korea). A country flag (signifying the current input language) will show up just left of your clock and battery charge icon in the top Mac menu after you close the window.

Success! You have enabled different keyboard input languages. But, read on for another neat little trick.

5. Enabling keyboard shortcuts for input

From this same Input Menu tab, look to the bottom right corner for a button that says “Keyboard Shortcuts…” and click on that. Now it’s time to make it super quick and easy to switch between languages (who wants to use the mouse to click your little flag icon to manually change languages when you could do it with a simple key combination?).

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6. Choose your favored button combo

Scroll down to almost the bottom of the menu there, and you should see something that looks like my image above. The parts you’re looking for here are the ones that specifically say “Input Menu” and “Select the previous input source.” There’s a good chance yours won’t have any key combination assigned to them yet (as my friend’s didn’t) and possibly the menu item that says “Spotlight” will have this key combination: Command(Apple)-Space. We want to assign that key combination to your Input Menu instead of Spotlight. So, double-click the key combination and press a new key combination to assign a new one

NOTE** In the image above, my “Select the previous input source” is assigned to Command(Apple)-Space as I find this to be the easiest combo for language switching.  Every time I push Apple-Space, my Input menu automatically switches between my last two used language choices (Korean and English usually). Additionally, my “Show the next input source from the Input menu” is assigned to Option-Apple-Space, so clicking this combination of buttons will scroll through my possible language options (in my case Korean-English-Japanese-Chinese).

Success!!

Close it all out and you should now have different input languages configured on your Mac.

Change the entire OS language

Remember this image from Step #2 above?

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Immediately upon opening “International” from “System Preferences” you will see this window with a list of languages on the left and some nice instructions on the right that say, “Drag languages into the order you prefer for use in application menus, dialogs, and sorting.” Why don’t you just play with that a bit?

If you drag one of the languages up to the first position (mine here is English -> but I’ll drag Korean up there), and then log out of your user account (click the Apple icon in the top menu bar and choose “Log Out Username…”), then when you log back in, your entire system will have changed languages into your “first preference” language. See mine in Korean?

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Pretty nifty huh? Sure beats Windows!

There you have it, a super quick and simple way to add languages to your input menu, or change your entire system’s language with a few button clicks. Did I leave anything out? Know of any other cool language tricks for Mac?

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