I can’t believe this is the first time I’ve needed this on OS X, but it came about from needing to write a document for a European customer and suddenly realising I didn’t know how to make an umlaut on my Macbook Pro’s British keyboard. On Windows I might fire up the Character Map, but I didn’t know how to do it on OS X. Here’s what I discovered:
- OS X friendly apps like Mail, Safari, iCal and even Firefox have a ‘Special Characters’ entry on the Edit menu which brings up an equivalent of Character Map.
- For less OS X friendly apps (like Open Office), you can add a menu bar item to do the same everywhere under System Preferences, Language & Text, Input Sources - check the Keyboard and Character Viewer option and make sure the Show Input On Menu Bar is enabled. Then you just click the new icon on the menu bar every time you need the character browser.
- The most common ones have keyboard shortcuts which modify the next character you type afterward - Option-e puts an acute accent on the next character you type, Option-` is a grave accent, Option-u is an umlaut, Option-i a circumflex, Option-n that weird Spanish squiggle 😉 While experimenting I found the ® and © symbols too (Option-r and Option-g respectively, Option-c is the cedilla)
So there you go - useful stuff if you’re on a British (or presumably US) keyboard and need to deal with non-English names from time to time. If you already knew this, great - this is just for people in my position who have to use these characters rarely and haven’t encountered it on a Mac yet.