Mac: Keyboard Viewer and Unicode

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Option Key and the Keyboard Viewer

In Mac OS X, you can type a special characters such as { ü é å « » ƒ ® © ° }, by holding down the Option key. To see what characters are available, you can pull the Keyboard Viewer.

mac keyboard viewer
Keymap from Mac OS X Keyboard Viewer (with Dvorak Keyboard Layout), showing you what characters you can type using the ⌥ option key. Those colored orange are prefix keys, allowing you to type combination characters such as {áéíóú}.
mac keyboard viewer

To start Keyboard Viewer, go to System Preferences, International, Input Menu tab, then click at the bottom “Show input menu in menu bar”. Then, on the input menu at the top right of the menu bar, there's a 〖Show Keyboard Viewer〗 menu. This will show the Keyboard Viewer.

Supported Characters

The chars available with the Opt key are those in the Mac OS Roman char set. Basically it's a char set created by Apple in the 1990s or earlier, before Unicode became popular. You can see the complete set of chars and their Unicode code point at: Mac OS Roman.

Define your Own Chars to Insert

You can define a key to insert any Unicode symbol, such as { α β }. For how, see: Creating Keyboard Layout in Mac OS X.

For samples of Unicode chars, see: Sample Unicode Characters.

Apple's keyboard shortcut notation used in menus heavily uses symbolic icons. e.g. { }. 〔►see Short Survey of Keyboard Shortcut Notations〕 For a list of these symbols, see: Unicode Keyboard Symbols ⌘ ⏎ ⌫.