Apple

How to employ OS X characters with diacritical marks

Adding diacritical marks in OS X isn't always immediately apparent, straightforward, or necessarily intuitive, but it can be done more easily than you think. Erik Eckel explains how.

Adding special characters in OS X

Recently, I wrote and published a basic informational website in Spanish. Keep in mind, I last studied Spanish in college, and I've never studied web design. Accessing the required special letters and accents, known as diacritical marks, proved troublesome at first. But with a few quick tips, I quickly became a pro — and so can you.

Diacritical marks are basically special notations accompanying letters that change pronunciation. Some diacritical marks, such as the acute (') and grave (`), are often referred to as accents. While the English language doesn't rely too heavily upon diacritical marks, many languages — including Spanish and French — do. The diacritical marks themselves can appear above or below a letter, within a letter, or between two letters. Here's how to get them inserted within a document, spreadsheet, presentation, web page, or other file using OS X.

Key combinations

OS X supports numerous key combinations for entering a wide range of special characters and diacritical marks. For example, you can produce the following characters using the provided combination:

á — [option] + [e], [a]

Á — [option] + [e], [shift] + [a]

é — [option] + [e], [e]

É — [option] + [e], [shift] + [e]

í — [option] + [e], [i]

Í — [option] + [e], [shift] + [i]

ñ — [option] + [n], [n]

Ñ — [option] + [n], [shift] + [n]

ó — [option] + [e], [o]

Ó — [option] + [e], [shift] + [o]

ú — [option] + [e], [u]

Ú — [option] + [e], [shift] + [u]

ü — [option] + [u], [u]

Ü — [option] + [u], [shift] + [u]

Special punctuation marks, such as the upside down question mark frequently used in Spanish, can also be produced. For the inverted question mark, press [shift] + [option] + [?].

In order to view all the many characters supported within OS X 10.9, open System Preferences and select Language and Region. Click the Keyboard Preferences button, then select the Keyboard tab. Check the box for Show Keyboard & Character Viewers in Menu Bar. Enabling the Keyboard and Character Viewers adds an icon to the Mac's menu bar (near the clock, if enabled) that users can click and select Show Character Viewer.

Choosing Latin from the Characters menu enables the user to browse and select from dozens of accented characters. Choosing the Punctuation option, meanwhile, provide access to a host of special punctuation characters, including the inverted question mark.

Depressing a corresponding key

Another method, which proved to be easier for me, is to simply depress an effected key. For example, if you need a specially accented A, just hold the [a] key down on the Mac keyboard. Depressing the key longer than a second results in a pop-up menu, which includes eight different accented letter A options, any of which can be immediately selected by clicking the corresponding subscripted number. The same method works for other alphabetical keys possessing alternate options.

What other keyboard tips and tricks do you recommend when working with OS X? Share your favorite in the discussion thread below.

About Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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