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Mac OS X Special Character Quick Reference

Originally published at covert-ops.org. You can comment here or there.

I was chatting with someone today, and mentioned that the heat index was 106°. My correspondent immediately asked me how I managed to make the degree symbol. As I’m on a Mac, it’s dead simple: option-shift-8. This was something of a revelation to my friend (also a Mac user), and the next question was, “What other cool symbols can I type!?”

Instead of doing the right thing (telling my friend to open a TextEdit document and try the damned keyboard combinations), I made a cheat sheet. (Only about halfway through making it did it occur to me to Google for one. And by then, I was already invested in the damned thing.)

So, if any of you might find it handy, here it is: OS X Special Character Quick Reference

Enjoy. Or don’t. :)

Matthew Whalen liked this post
Enable "Show Keyboard and Character Viewer in Menu Bar" in System Preferences > Keyboard

Now you have a pulldown menu near the top right of the screen, that will usually be an icon of whichever country your keyboard is currently set to (so, for example, a US flag) - from that menu you can open the "Keyboard Viewer". A large image of a keyboard shows up on your screen, with each key labelled with the character it will enter if you type it. Hold down any modifier key or combination of modifier keys, and all the keys on that keyboard will instantly change to show the characters they'd enter with that modifier or modifier combo. You can rapidly see all of the possibilities and find the one you're looking for.
I think starting with 10.6 or 10.7, you can also hold down the various letters that can be accented, and a numbered list will appear to pick the accent rather then trying to remember the proper oder to get the accent facing the right way. For a you get: à, á, â, ä, æ, ã, å, and ā.

I'm betting this was added to make keyboard usage more consistent between iOS and OSX.

Punctuation marks, such as ≤, ≥ and ≠, still required option+key use.