How to type accents, symbols and emoji on Mac

In daily use of a Mac we may need to write sentences like: “José Luís lives en España” or “Spaß für Groß und Klein”. Typing some characters may seem complicated, but it’s not.

Accented characters

As for the variants of the vowels and the “c” letter, just hold down the key for a few seconds and it will show up a menu from which, by selecting the desired number, you can quickly insert the requested variation.

Notice: the menu is not displayed when the “Key Repeat” slider is disabled in the “Keyboard” pane of “System Preferences…“:

System Preferences

System Preferences - Keyboard

Keyboard - Key Repeat

Holding down a vowel or “c” letter we have:

While holding ⇧ (Shift) and a vowel or “c” letter you have:


Another way to insert special characters is to use the Keyboard Viewer or Character Viewer  ​​available in the menu bar. To use these viewers you must enable the “Show Keyboard & Character Viewer in menu bar” option:

System Preferences

System Preferences - Keyboard


Keyboard Viewer


The Keyboard Viewer is the dynamic image of the Mac keyboard showing in real-time characters depending on used combinations. The possible combinations are:

  • ⇧ (Shift)
  • ⎇ (Option)
  • Ctrl
  • fn
  • ⎇ (Option) + Ctrl
  • ⎇ (Option) + ⇧ (Shift)

If, for example, while viewing the display keyboard ⇧(Shift) key is pressed, uppercase characters will be shown.

If you press the ⎇ (Option) key you will have a map of all activated special characters.


Pressing ⎇ (Option) + ⇧(Shift) will display other special characters.


Character Viewer

If the special character you’re looking for is not showed in the Keyboard Viewer, you can select it manually using the Character Viewer. Just click on the icon to open the “Input” menu you previously added to your menu bar.

Caharcter Viewer

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Oscar Talamo

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