How to display a Mac OS character map

mac-characters-paletteTyping a character that doesn’t have its own key on the keyboard is easy in Windows – you can just use the Windows Character Map tool. Mac OS doesn’t have a similar tool – or rather, it doesn’t have one that’s so easily accessible. There are a few options for quickly inserting symbols like ®, π and © into a document, though.

The easiest is to display the Mac OS Characters palette – just press [Command] + [Option] + [T], or [⌘] + [⌥] + [T]. You can then browse through various symbols and special characters, and simply double-click any one to insert it into your current document.

A quicker option is to use the OptionAlt Widget. Once installed, this displays a keyboard map with all keyboard-accessible characters and symbols. It doesn’t show as many symbols as the Characters palette, but most of the commonly used ones are there and it’s a handy option if you want to memorise the three or four you use regularly.


  • Mark Wheadon

    Another way of getting to the Mac OS Characters palette is to go to System Preferences->International->Input menu and tick the box next to “Character Palette”.

    From then on there's an extra icon in your Menu Bar at the top of the Mac screen (a Union Jack in my case as I'm based in the UK), and clicking on that gets you the Character palette.

    • Davidka

      In later versions of OSX this seems to have evolved into

      System Preferences->Language & Text->Input Sources->Show input menu in menu bar

      which gets you both the keyboard map and the character viewer

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  • Dylan Wentworth

    One of my biggest complaints with the Google algorithm is that tech how-tos from 9 or 10 + years ago shows up most prominently in the search results. This is obviously way outdated now but still show up on top.

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