3 Ways to Access Special Characters on Your MacBook Keyboard

Do you ever wonder how to type words that use accents, such as piñata? Or have you ever wondered how to add useful symbols to your emails, blog posts, or messages?

When using a MacBook keyboard, there is only so much space. Each key has multiple functions already, but special characters are limited to what you see on your keys.

But there are tons of different symbols and special characters that just take some easy keyboard shortcuts in order to access. Wondering what special characters shortcuts are available on your MacBook? Keep reading to find out now.

What Are Special Characters?

There are many different categories of special characters that can be typed on a computer keyboard including MacBooks. So what type of categories exist?

MacBook Keyboard Symbols

These are the alternative symbols that are easily available on your current MacBook keyboard. You should see them on each of your physical keys.

These are primarily punctuation symbols and the most common special characters. This includes symbols such as the dollar sign ($) and the “@” symbol, used in email addresses and on social media.

For most people who speak and type in English, these are the only special characters required on a regular basis. And if you only need a special character once in a while, you could always type it out rather than spend time figuring out how to type the actual symbol.

For example, you can type out “53 cents” or “$0.53” instead of looking for the “cents” symbol. 

Letter Variations

Letter variations are those that have accents. These are commonly used with words coming from Spanish, French, or other non-English languages.

Spanish accent symbols, also known as diacritics, can include the diaeresis (ü), the acute accent (é), and the tilde (ñ). The tilde is used for common words like piñata, as mentioned earlier. 

There are five different French accent symbols, including the cedilla (ç), the acute accent (é), the circumflex (â), the grave accent (ù), and the trema (ü). Even if you don’t speak french, you likely used french words from time to time, such as café, à la carte, or déjà vu.

But using these words without the proper accent symbols is naïve and quite frankly, boring. 

Mathematical Symbols

There are many mathematical symbols that are used everywhere on a regular basis. It would also be convenient to use these when typing on our computers.

Mathematical symbols include marks such as currency symbols like cents (¢), the division symbol (÷), or infinity (∞). There are many more that are very useful in school or for those whose work involves math, science, or education.

Nonenglish Characters

And of course, there are many non-English characters available for those who speak and type in other languages, such as Japanese, Chinese, or Korean. Rather than special characters, these require a completely different keyboard. But you can access many of these directly from your current computer without making any changes.

Uses for Special Characters

There are many different reasons people will need to access special characters. For many words, it simply allows you to use the correct punctuation.

Other times, you want to type something that way that it would normally be displayed anywhere else, such as, “75 ℉” instead of typing out seventy-five degrees.

3 Ways to Access Special Characters on a MacBook

Depending on the characters you need to access, there are different methods to use them. Here are the three most common ways to access various special characters.

1. Basic Symbols on Macbook Keyboard; The Shift Key

To use the secondary, or alternative symbols that are shown on the MacBook keyboard, simply hold down the shift key and then press the designated key.

This should bypass the primary character on the key and use the symbol shown on the upper portion of your keys. If you have trouble with this method, try your other “shift” key, as most keyboards come with two.

If they aren’t working, you may have a broken or jammed shift key. You can try blowing out debris, removing the key and cleaning under it, or taking it in for repairs. 

2. Special Characters Not Shown on Macbook Keyboard

Most people know how to use the shift key to access the shown symbols. But you can also use the option key to access additional characters.

For example, a standard MacBook keyboard will produce “¢” when you hold down the option key and press “4” at the same time. Go ahead and hold the option key while typing various keys and see what you get.

There are many symbols, such as the trademark symbol or the copyright symbol mac keyboards can easily produce using this method.

3. Onscreen Keyboard and Character Viewer

People who write code, write full time, or otherwise are computer geeks will find it easy to memorize special characters or even create their own keyboard shortcuts.

But for the rest of us, there’s only one thing we really need to know how to do; display the onscreen keyboard and symbols list.

It’s super easy to pull up, and once you know how to do this, you are free to find and use any symbol at any time. To do this, first, navigate to your mac’s menu by clicking the apple icon in the top left of your screen.

Click “System Preferences” and then click “keyboard.” Then select the check box that says, “Show keyboard and emoji viewers in the menu bar.”

Now, if you look in the top right of your screen, next to where your clock and battery level are shown, you should see a “Command” symbol that looks like a little flower inside a box. Clicking that button pulls up a menu that allows you to show either the symbols and emojis list, or the onscreen keyboard.

To use one of the special characters, make sure you have a word processor open on your computer. Then just double-click the symbol you’d like to use and it should populate in your word processor.

Typing Just Got a Lot More Fun

It’s a simple button that needs to be pressed, and all of a sudden you have access to hundreds, if not thousands of special characters, symbols, and emojis.

Whether you just want to type more vibrant emails, or are trying to be grammatically correct it’s a useful thing to know. And now that you do, you won’t ever forget it. Happy typing!

Looking for more tips and tricks like this? Head over to the rest of our blog today.

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