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I use the following three packages to get correct German umlauts in the generated PDF:

\usepackage[utf8]{inputenc} % this is needed for umlauts
\usepackage[ngerman]{babel} % this is needed for umlauts
\usepackage[T1]{fontenc}    % this is needed for correct output of umlauts in pdf

Today, I have seen this:

\usepackage[german]{babel}

What's the difference between ngerman and german? I think n could probably mean new, but which one should I use? Do you have an example where it matters?

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To be precise, inputenc makes sure the umlauts etc. in the source are read correctly; babel makes sure the correct hyphenation patterns are used and changes the language of text strings like Table of Contents; fontenc changes the font encoding in the PDF, otherwise an ä would be created as a combination of a and ¨, which looks worse and makes copy-paste harder. For my "German" setup, I usually also use lmodern (Latin Modern) as a font (the alternative is installing the cm-super package, which is then automatically used by fontenc), cf. tex.stackexchange.com/a/65103. –  doncherry Aug 17 '12 at 12:52
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3 Answers

up vote 19 down vote accepted

As has been said before, german is Alte Rechtschreibung (= "right-writing" = orthography = "right-writing"), ngerman is Neue Rechtschreibung. The part that's really relevant is hyphenation, because that's what babel influences. So here are some examples what has changed in hyphenation, taken from canoonet (I'm strongly assuming that babel implemented these changes, but I didn't check the code):

old         new
Braue-rei   Brau-e-rei
Bäk-ker     Bä-cker     ← This is imho the most important change, which can easily be spotted
Mei-ster    Meis-ter

While changes like old Schiffahrt to new Schifffahrt are correct, they're not really relevant from babel's point of view because babel doesn't correct your spelling, so that's really up to you, i.e. it depends on what you type. As always with such conventions, you should be consistent in your choice of orthography. Officially, Alte Rechtschreibung has been deprecated for a few years; before that, both were "allowed".

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My line of thought was that babel probably wouldn't recognize "Schifffahrt" and simply wouldn't hyphenate it. –  Juri Robl Aug 17 '12 at 12:31
    
@JuriRobl: That would make sense, but is actually not the case: \documentclass{article} \usepackage[ngerman]{babel} \setlength{\textwidth}{.5cm} \begin{document}x Schiffahrt \par x Schifffahrt\end{document} (The x are necessary because the first word in a paragraph won't be hyphenated) -- both are hyphenated, no matter which one of german and ngerman I use. –  doncherry Aug 17 '12 at 12:43
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As said before german refers to "Alte Rechtschreibung", the orthography before 2006, and ngerman to "Neue Rechtschreibung", the orthography since 2006 (with transition period since 1996). Thus the differences are:

  • Different hyphenation patterns are used due to changed rules in hyphenation. In case of ngerman babel loads hyphenation pattern, that are derived from the old patterns by Walter Schmidt.

    BTW, there are newer experimental patterns, see dehyph-exptl. They can be made available using package hyphsubst.

  • Some of the hyphenation rules have changed. In the old orthography ck was hyphenated as k-k. Or triple consonants are avoided if followed by vowels, but the third consonants reappeared if hyphenated, e.g.:

    Schiffahrt → Schiff-fahrt

    In german this was supported by shorthands:

    B"a"cker Schi"ffahrt
    

    Because these cases are simplified in the new orthography, these special shorthands are no longer available in ngerman:

      "c, "C, "f, "F, "l, "L, "m, "M, "n, "N, "p, "P, "r, "R, "t", "T
    

    Also macro \ck has been dropped for the same reason.

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Yes, the n stands for new, as it is the "neue deutsche Rechtschreibung" from (in the current form) 2006. One of the most common differences is the different use of 'ß' and 'ss'. As it is the current one, you should always use ngerman.

One example is "Schifffahrt" (new) in contrast to the old "Schiffahrt", as triple consonants at the joint of compound words used to be reduced to only two.

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What does babel do different with Schifffahrt and Schiffahrt? I mean, it doesn't autocorrect, does it? - I've just seen that doncherry mentioned hyphenation. –  moose Aug 17 '12 at 12:47
    
I figured that it couldn't recognize it as a word it knows, and wouldn't hyphenate it. I was wrong though, as doncherry pointed out in his comment. –  Juri Robl Aug 17 '12 at 12:49
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