Enjoy Mountain Lion’s special characters

Enjoy Mountain Lion’s special characters
Mac Tip #558, 31 October 2012

Sometimes you want to add a little extra pizzazz to a document you’re creating. Perhaps some stars, arrows, or symbols are what you need. Or maybe it’s just a smiley. Or how about a rocketship, a cyclist, or a puppy? If so, Mountain Lion has just what you need: special characters. Here’s where to find them and how to use them.

Quick Start

  1. Set an Insertion Point.
  2. Choose Special Characters… from the Edit menu. The Special Characters window appears, displaying hundreds, or maybe thousands, of characters and variations, grouped in categories.
  3. Double click a character to insert it.

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Special characters offer fun and useful images

If you’re making a party invitation or perhaps a newsletter for family members you may like to jazz it up a bit with some small images. You don’t need to buy a clip art collection or go hunting online, because Mountain Lion has hundreds of clip art style images just waiting for you to use them.

Special characters at play.

Special characters at play.

But even apart from the fun images, Special Characters has useful things like maths symbols, arrows, copyright marks and other things you might use in a business document.

A few of the Special Arrow Characters.

A few of the Special Arrow Characters.

Insert Special Characters like text

First click in a document where you can type text. This sets the Insertion Point. Your Special Characters will appear there.

Then go to the edit menu and choose Special Characters…. The Special Characters window appears, displaying hundreds, or maybe thousands, of characters and variations, grouped in categories. Make the window larger or smaller to suit your needs by dragging on the edges.

One problem is that the Special Characters window always floats on top of everything else and it may hide the document you’re trying to work on. Resize it and drag it round by the Title Bar so you can see what you’re doing.

To insert a character double-click it.

Save Favorites

If you see an image you think you’ll use again, click on the Add to Favorites button. The image is added to the Favorites list that appears near the top of the Special Characters window. That makes it much easier to find in future.

Add to Favorites.

Add to Favorites.

See variations

Some characters have alternate versions — for example, find the & character in the Punctuation section. Look below the Add to Favorites button to see Related Characters and Font Variation.

If you don’t see these sections for the & character drag the edges of the Characters window to make it bigger.

Customize the Characters window

Notice the gear icon at top left of the Characters window. Click the gear icon to change the size of the images.

Choose Customize List… from the gear icon to open up a whole wide world of additional characters. A window appears where you can Select categories. Scroll down to see dozens or hundreds of extra symbols that may or may not be available on your Mac.

For example, I added Phoenician to my list of symbols, but it was empty. I imagine I don’t have the appropriate fonts installed or active.

The Musical Symbols category though gave me what looks to me (not a musician) anything you might need for writing about music.

Extra options

Notice that if you select the Dingbats category, a pop-up menu appears above the characters area. The pop-up offers additional options such as Webdings or Windings 2.

Select the Emoji category, and you’ll see an additional list appears next to the characters area. Choose your Emoji from categories like People, Nature, Objects.

There’s a lot to explore in the Characters window.

More Tips on this topic

Also see these older MacTips for some extra perspective:

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