I've been toying with learning German for a few months now, and I'm trying to use my basic knowledge to update the translation to one of my iPhone apps. What word should I use for "manual" as in "set this value manually instead of automatically" (I'm just showing the single word/phrase "manual" on the screen.)

Google Translate offers "manual" and "von Hand". My Berlitz German-English dictionary calls a manual a "Handbuch" (which is obviously wrong, as it is a noun, which is not what I'm looking for). It also says "mit der Hand". (That seems a bit unwieldy and long for where it's going.)

What is the best phrase to put on a menu along with "Automatisch", and "Stadt"? The menu looks like this:

( Automatisch | Stadt | {manual})

Should I just write "Hand"? von Hand?


This portion of the app allows the user to set their latitude and longitude either using the device's GPS, selecting from a list of cities, or by manually entering it.

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    What is "Stadt" supposed to mean in this context?
    – Jan
    Jan 22, 2012 at 17:16
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    Could you explain in short what the value is supposed to mean? I wonder also if you have enough space for additional words, like "von Hand auswählen..."
    – 0x6d64
    Jan 22, 2012 at 17:19
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    In an app, you should use manuell. That's the typical word in this case.
    – Em1
    Jan 22, 2012 at 17:20
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    I'd like to propose a completely different text: "Standort festlegen durch (GPS (automatisch) | Stadt | Koordinateneingabe)". This way the user will know that he is supposed to provide coordinates to his location for the third option without selecting the option. Without this information, one could ask what exactly "manual" means (in fact I wondered myself before your edit).
    – 0x6d64
    Jan 23, 2012 at 22:07

2 Answers 2


These are the most common synonyms for the adjective "manual" in German:

von Hand
mit der Hand
per Hand

It sounds like "manuell" is the best option for your menu (be aware of the "ell" ending instead of the "al" ending in English).

Nonetheless you should explain the use of "Stadt", because it's an unusual menu item and I guess you mistranslated that one. It means "town" or "city". If that's what you want, go with it.

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    @Em1: "händisch" is only used in Southern Germany and Austria, otherwise I would have added it. Jan 22, 2012 at 18:05
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    @JohnSmithers I'm sorry, but you're wrong ;p I neither live in Southern Germany or Austria, but I use it. I think it is much more common as you expect.
    – Em1
    Jan 22, 2012 at 19:36
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    @Em1: Well, then ... Jan 22, 2012 at 19:50
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    Der Steigung des Ngrams nach zu urteilen, bist Du mit dem "häßlich" in der Minderzahl, @userunknown ;) Jan 22, 2012 at 22:35
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    Geist und Geschmack sind oft in der Minderheit. ;) Jan 22, 2012 at 23:24

In practically every technical context, the correct translation for manual is "manuell", and so it is in your case.

Never use "von Hand" or "per Hand" in contexts like software user interfaces, etc. or even machine controls.

You'd use "von Hand" when you mean generally doing something manually. For instance when you adjust some measuring equipment or something. "per Hand" and "von Hand" is pretty interchangeable, however "per Hand" seems a bit antiquated.

You use "mit der Hand" only when you're actually using your hands! For instance when you'd say "von Hand einstellen" you'd mean, manually set something up, this could mean you'd use a screwdriver, or some other tool. "mit der Hand einstellen" means you actually have to use your bare hand to set something up.

"händisch" does exist, however it's use is very limited. You can use it interchangeably with "manuell", if you really like it. I advice against it's use.

  • @Takkat: Ah, thanks for the link. Now I see why I don't really know "händisch". I'm don't use "EDV-Jargon", and I'm neither from southern Germany nor from Austria. Jan 23, 2012 at 14:27
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    @HendrikVogt: ;) I am from the south, use "EDV-Jargon" a lot but never do anything manually. If I do so I do it "manuell", not "händisch" but I often read about "händisch" in the c't magazine seated in Hannover.
    – Takkat
    Jan 23, 2012 at 15:47
  • Ok, it is some weirdness going on, then. I will change my text accordingly. However I doubt it's "wide use in computing context". I happen to be in the industry for quite some time now, and I've never come across it. That said, c't likes to use "respective" as a replacement for "beziehungsweise" as well, which otherwise isn't really seen that often in the wild...
    – polemon
    Jan 23, 2012 at 16:00

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