I don’t know how much you’ve figured out so far, but here’s some hints on special characters with the Mac.
Holding down Option and pressing a letter will yield a variety of characters. Holding down Option + Shift will produce even more.
The e, u, i, n and ` keys are additionally special in that they can produce combinations. If you hold down Option with one of these, then release Option, then type a key, it will produce some common accent or diacritical marks.
e=acute (á) [hold Option,type e, release, type a]
However, the Option key trick is not guaranteed to work with every font. Some simply put some other symbols there (though those that do are pretty much standardized.) It’s also dependent on the Input Source, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
How do you then determine what’s going to be written when you press a key? That’s where “Key Caps” came in. Although it’s not called Key Caps anymore, which may be why you had trouble finding it. Well that, and it’s quite well hidden. And it’s not as important, since it’s less useful than it once was. Key Caps started life as DA with a very simple and useful function. It shows a picture of your keyboard. On each key is exactly what will appear when you press that key (except for keys like Shift, Option, or Delete). When you hold Option or Shift, the view changes each time, so you can see always see what will result.
Well, you used to, anyway. In 10.5 (Leopard) Apple stupidly changed it so that you can only see the ‘standard’ mapping and a few other fonts. If you’re lucky enough to have an earlier version of the OS, you’ll still be able to see exactly what you want. Even in Leopard it can still be useful regardless if you don’t know the symbols yet.
“Key Caps” is now known as the “Keyboard Viewer”. To access it, you need to enable it in the Input Menu. (Back in the OS 9 days, it was under the Apple Menu, but that’s long ago now. If that really is what you meant by “Mac OS”, then just open it from there and forget everything else). Assuming you don’t have an unusual setup, the Input Menu is a little flag at the top right of the Menu Bar (top of the screen). If you Computer is configured for the US, it’s a tiny American flag. For now, click on it and then select “Open International”. The International Preferences will open.
If the Input Menu isn’t displayed, or for an alternate way to get to these settings — open the System Preferences (lightswitch or set of gears in the Dock, or via the Apple Menu at the upper left). The International is indicated by a UN flag.
This seems like a lot, but you only have to do this setup once. In the International Preferences, there’s three options (Language, Formats, and Input Menu). Select “Input Menu”. You should see a few options at the very top above a separator. One of these is “Keyboard Viewer”. Next to it is a Checkbox under the “On” column, and if you check it, it’ll now be visible. Just for fun, make sure that “Character Palette” is checked on as well. I’ll mention it in the next post. When you’re done, close the International window.
Now that the Keyboard Viewer is enabled, you still have to show it (but doing so is easy via the Input Menu). Select the Input Menu, and select “Show Keyboard Viewer”. Now you’ve got a nice little diagram that lights up whenever you press a key. Hold down Option, and you can see your special characters. The diacritical marker keys will be highlighted when they will do something special.
Now, what if you want something not available that way (like ð, or ⌘, or something unique to a font?) That’s where the Character Palette comes in. More in the next post.