Access special characters in any Mac application

Access special characters in any Mac application
Quick Mac Tip, 06 February 2011

Do you need to type an unusual symbol or character, such as ¿ or ? The Character Viewer is here to help you.

Access the Character Viewer

The Character Viewer.

The Character Viewer.

Select Edit > Special Characters… from whatever application you’re in (e.g. TextEdit, Safari or Mail).

A full list of characters appears, from punctuation to mathematical symbols to Braille patterns. You can use in your documents.

This guest Tip was written by Andrew J. Gnoza, III, and edited by Miraz Jordan.

Andrew J. Gnoza, III.

Andrew J. Gnoza, III is retired and first started with an Apple computer in the mid 1980′s. His employment required he use a DOS / Windows based machine until his retirement in 1995, free again he went back to the Mac.

Add your most used as Favorites

Call up the chart and highlight the character you want to save as a Favorite. At the bottom left of the table is a “Widget button”.
When you click on the Widget button the option to save the highlighted character to your favorites appears.

Choose Add to Favorites.

Widget button.

Widget button.

Keep the Character Viewer handy

To add the Character Viewer icon to the righthand part of the Menu Bar:

  1. From the Apple menu, select System Preferences… .
  2. In System Preferences, from the View menu, select Language & Text.
  3. Select the Input Sources tab , and then check Keyboard & Character Viewer. A new icon should appear in the menu bar in the upper right corner of your screen.

Click the icon in the menu bar to access both the Character Viewer and the Keyboard Viewer.

The Keyboard Viewer

The Keyboard Viewer displays a virtual keyboard that shows the characters associated with different keys.

Hold down modifier keys like Option (⌥), Shift (⇧), and Command (⌘) to see what characters are available.

PopCharX gives easy access to characters



An alternative to the Character Viewer is the shareware program PopCharX.

PopCharX is a font utility application that lets you insert special characters, accented letters, umlauts, etc. from all installed fonts into your documents.

You never need to search for and remember keystrokes any longer. Just pop up the PopChar window, click the desired character, and the character appears in your current document.

If a font contains Unicode characters, you can see all of them, neatly arranged in the standard Unicode categories.

You may also like to visit Change your Character, Mac Tip #365, 19 November 2008 for more information on the Character Viewer.

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  1. Eddie said:

    sorry not working on ibook G4 -no such option in system and no character viewer

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Since you have an iBook G4 you possibly have an older version of the operating system. Did you follow the link to read this Tip: – Change your Character?

      That covers similar ground but for an older OS.

      The Character Viewer has been available for a long time. I’m surprised it’s not available to you.

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