Tech > MacKeyboardTips

Mac OS X Keyboard Tips

Special Sybmols/Characters

Hash or Pound Sign (#)

option-3 produces a British Pound sign on a US keyboard and the hash or pound symbol on a UK keyboard.

Input Menu

There is an Input Menu that can be turned on in System Preferences->International.

Select the Input Menu tab and turn on the Character Palette and Keyboard Viewer. Enable the "Show input menu in menu bar" checkbox.

Click the flag that is now displayed in the menu bar and select "Show Keybaord Viewer". Now when you hold down the shift or option keys, you can see which keys are mapped to which characters.

Choosing to view "Roman" characters, "by Category" and selecting the "Accented Latin" characters will display the common european accented characters.

International Keys (Dead Keys, etc)


These instructions relate to OS X 10.11 (El Capitan).

Keyboard Viewer

In order to see which keys produce which characters, etc.:

  1. In system preferences, select keyboard

  2. Click the 'Keyboard' tab

  3. Enable the 'Show Keyboard, Emoji, & Symbol Viewers in menu bar' checkbox

  4. Click the 'Input Sources' tab

  5. Enable the 'Show Input menu in menu bar' checkbox

An icon will now be displayed on the menu bar, reflecting which keyboard layout you are currently using. On that menu, select 'Show Keyboard Viewer' to display a visual map of the keyboard layout. Pressing the modifier keys, shows the symbols associated with that modifier key. The useful combinations appear to be related to using the options key with and without the shift key.

Character Viewer

Another alternative is to select the 'Show Imoji and Symbols' from the menu bar keyboard icon. Then select 'Latin' a letter key and double-click the desired key in the character list, or the list under 'Related Characters'.

Dead Keys

Another option is to use 'dead keys'. These are key combinations that do nothing in themselves, but wait for a second key to be pressed. The 'dead keys' generally are reminiscent of the diacritic marks. When you are using the keyboard viewer, presssing the options key highlights the dead keys in orange. When you select one of the dead keys, the viewer changes to display all the characters associated with that dead key.

Firstly, press the options key in combination with one of the (orange) dead keys. Then press the key corresponding with the character you wish. The dead key behaviour changes with which keyboard is installed. For example, with the 'ABC Extended' keyboard, pressing the option-e combination followed by the 'a' key selects the 'á' character.

Note that these option key combinations may not work in an editor such as Emacs as it remaps these keys for it's own use. See here for information on international input on Emacs (e.g. C-x 8 ' e produces é).

You might like to test the keys out running an editor like nano in a terminal window, or simply using the 'pages' application. Note, that if the option key is not working in the terminal, check the setting of 'Use Option as Meta Key' under Terminal->Preferences->Profiles->Keyboard.

-- Frank Dean - 18 Jul 2016

Unicode Hex Input

To add this keyboard, type hex in the keyboard search box, then select Unicode Hex Input from the list of keyboards.

To type a Unicode character, type the four character hex code while holding down the options key.

This method may not work in some applications, e.g. Emacs.

-- Frank Dean - 10 Jan 2017


Emulate Three Button Mouse

In the Apple X11 application's preferences, make sure that the "Emulate three button mouse" option is selected.

  • Middle mouse button - Option key

  • Right mouse button - Command key

Copying and Pasting Between X11 and Mac OS X

Generally, between X11 applications, select text using mouse to copy and use middle-click to paste.

To copy from X11 application to a Mac OS X application, after selecting text with the mouse, press Command-c to copy into the Mac OS X buffer.

Keyboard Shortcuts


Search Help for "safari keyboard shortcuts" for a list.

Action Shortcut

Next Window Command-back-tick Previous Window Command-~


-- Frank Dean - 30 Jan 2010

Related Topics: AppleMaciBook, InstallingKitlistMacOSX, InstallingMacPorts