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Using the Special Keyboard Symbols on a Mac

Did you know that there’s an information technology standard for all writing systems? That’s none other than the Unicode Standard (AKA Unicode). It contains a whopping 144,697 characters.

Those characters, in turn, come from all of the world’s known languages. From ancient script to special keyboard symbols, Unicode encompasses all of them.

With that said, you may be wondering where to find those special characters and symbols on Macs. After all, Apple keyboards only have 78 to 109 keys at most.

Don’t worry, as this guide will unlock that baffling mystery. So, read on to discover how to access and use all those special symbols on your Mac keyboard.

Where Are the Special Keyboard Symbols on Mac?

One of the locations of special characters and symbols on Mac is the keyboard itself. Apple keyboards come with a built-in diacritical marks menu.

Diacritics, in turn, are accenting marks placed above, below, or next to a letter in a word. They indicate specific pronunciations in terms of accent, stress, or tone.

Thus, a diacritical mark can change the meaning of a word. For example, if the word resume means to continue, the word résumé (or resumé) refers to work history.

However, it’s the Character Viewer that lets you access all Mac-compatible Unicode characters. Aside from diacritics, this menu also contains other special symbols and even emojis.

Inserting Diacritics to Text Typed on a Mac

If you need a diacritical mark when typing on a Mac, you only have to hold down the key for the letter on your keyboard.

For example, suppose you need to use e-acute (é) to spell words like paté or resumé. In that case, long-press the letter E key on your Mac keyboard. Doing so should bring up the accent and diacritical marks menu.

You can then use your trackpad or mouse cursor to select the e-acute character. You can also press the number key shown below the mark in the menu to insert the accented character into your text. Another way is to use the arrow keys to highlight the character you need and then hit the Space bar to select it.

Keep in mind that not all letters have diacritical marks, though. So, no menu will appear if a letter doesn’t have any associated diacritical mark.

You may also need to change your keyboard language if the character you need is specific to a language. You can do that via System Preferences > Keyboard > Input Sources. From there, you can add the language to the list by pressing the + key on the Input Sources tab.

Using Character Viewer to Type Special Characters and Symbols

Your Mac’s Character Viewer lets you type in Unicode characters to text-compatible apps. Those include diacritical marks, Latin characters, math symbols, and even pictographs.

You can then type in those characters or symbols into most programs or services that allow for text. That can be a text editor (such as Word or Pages), a messaging app (like Messages), or even a browser’s address bar.

Launching Character Viewer

To open Character Viewer, you can hit Control (^) + Command (⌘) + Space bar. The menu should then appear on the specific spot where you launched it. You can drag it anywhere on your desktop to keep it active while you work and type away.

Your other option is to click the Edit tab found on the left side of your Mac’s menu bar. You can then select the Emoji & Symbols option to open the Character Viewer menu.

Locating a Character in the Character Viewer

Once the Character Viewer appears on your screen, you can scroll to find the character you need. You can also click the buttons at the bottom-most field to jump to specific categories. The first ones you’ll see are Smileys & People, Animals & Nature, Food & Drink, Activity, and Symbols, to name a few.

You can also tap the >> button to make the menu show other category options. These include Letter-like Symbols, Pictographs, and Bullets & Stars, among others.

If you’re unsure of a character’s or a symbol’s category, you can use the search feature instead. Scroll up, and you should see the search bar where you can type in a keyword or key phrase. For example, you can type “division” to see all symbols associated with this word.

Note that when you first launch the Character Viewer, it shows up in minimum (pop-up) view by default. However, you can expand the display by clicking the icon on the upper-right-hand corner of the menu.

The expanded view offers even more categories and detailed lists. That’s where you can locate other characters and symbols that aren’t on the pop-up view. It even lets you create customized lists, including favorites.

Inserting Characters Into Text

Once you find the special character or symbol you need, click it to add it to your text. You may have to double-click the icon if you’re on the expanded view. You can go back to the pop-up view by clicking the button on the top-right corner of the menu.

The character or symbol you chose will show up at the exact spot where you launched the Character Viewer. You could cut or copy and paste it if it appeared in the wrong place.

Make Typing More Fun With Unicode Characters on Mac

There you have it, the only guide you need on using the special keyboard symbols and characters on Mac. You only need to keep in mind the shortcut key for Character Viewer, which is Control + Command + Space bar. So long as you remember this, you’ll have an easier time accessing your Mac’s Unicode menu.

So, as early as today, take advantage of all those characters and symbols to make your typing tasks more fun.

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