Is there a way, perhaps a combination of keys, to put umlauts in without having to go back and forth from the keyboard to the mouse to pick up the symbols from the menu?
It's very distracting to have to take one hand off the keyboard all the time and move the cursor to the desired letter with umlaut and it really slows things down and I make typos from not getting my hands repositioned correctly.
If you're on W7 right click the keyboard on your bottom right (taskbar), settings, Add (on the right), search for German (Germany), open the keyboard tab and check German. Click ok. Now if you see the bottom right you should have DE instead of US, that means you have a German keyboard. The umlaut is there somewhere in your keyboard just search for it. To back to US keyboard click the DE and switch to US. Done. To go back to DE, same last step.
If you're on Windows and don't want to change your keyboard layout to German (which will swap your Y and Z keys as well as move a lot of the punctuation to keys you might not be used to; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keyboard_layout#Germany_and_Austria), you can use "Alt codes" to enter characters that aren't on your keyboard. (Hold down Alt and type digits on the numeric keypad. It's only slightly less fiddly than using the mouse method...) ä Alt+0228 ö Alt+0246 ü Alt+0252 ß Alt+0223 Ä Alt+0196 Ö Alt+0214 Ü Alt+0220
In Linux, of course (for those looking for the answer), the best solution is to enable the 'compose key'. Exactly how to do that varies between window managers, but once you've made a key the compose key (I use capslock), you can then press "<Compose Key>, <">, <u>" for a 'ü'. It can do a lot of other things, too. See: