Special characters in Mac OS X

Insert ASCII accented character

Windows users don’t despair, you need this page: Using ASCII characters in Windows programs.

Accented characters: acutes, macrons, etc

An OS X Lion gem to get you started. In almost all programs on the Mac you can enter accented characters really easily. If you wish to write café for instance all you have to do when you get to e is hold down the e key momentarily and up pops a little palette with all the accented “e” choices. Click on the one you want, or press the number key below it. In this case I click on é or press the 2 key.

How easy was that?

You can also navigate to the letter you want with the arrow keys and press Enter. In some programs—Wordpress’s editor for instance—I find that clicking with the mouse or using the arrow/Enter method doubles up the letter, so I tend to use the number key option.

For everything else

There are several other ways of inserting special characters (aka ASCII characters) into your deathless prose when using Mac OS X. One way is to use your Mac’s standard keyboard shortcuts as revealed by the Keyboard Viewer. You can use the viewer to insert characters, but for characters you use often it’s much easier to memorize their key combinations, many of which are intuitive – for instance, Opt+o gives ø.

US keyboard viewer OS X

Before you can access the Keyboard Viewer easily you need to add the Input Menu to the Menulet section of the Menu Bar at the top right of your screen. To do this: Continue reading “Special characters in Mac OS X”

Entering special characters in Windows programs

Common ASCII codes

In Windows programs the individual characters of the ASCII character set can be inserted into your text by holding down the Alt key and typing a number on the number pad.They don’t work with the numbers along the top of your keyboard.

Make sure NumLock is on.

Here are the ones I find most useful:

Commonly used ASCII symbols from the standard set
Numpad Symbol NumPad Symbol NumPad Symbol
130 é 138 è 0224 à
174 « 175 » 0252 ü
156 £ 0162 ¢ 0165 ¥
0248 ø 158 × 0169 ©
172 ¼ 171 ½ 0190 ¾
0150 0151 0133
167 º 0178 ² 0179 ³

You may have different requirements, check the full set of 200-odd more characters from Alt+32 — Alt+0255 is on this Just Wondering page along with a broader explanation.

This table shows the less commonly known ones which use Alt+Numpad 1 — Alt+Numpad 31.

ASCII symbols using the number pad 1 to 30
Numpad Symbol NumPad Symbol NumPad Symbol
1 11 21 §
2 12 22
3 13 23
4 14 24
5 15 25
6 16 26
7 17 27
8 18 28
9 19 29
10 20 30
31 145 æ 0177 ±

These are not to be confused with the much more extensive HTML character codes for inserting characters into web pages. See them on this Just Wondering page.