For many United States Mac users who communicate with the international community, typing accented letters can create a great deal of concern. More than a few think it’s necessary to type in special codes to insert the characters, but the truth is that it’s actually much easier than that. Several years ago, our own Melissa Holt showed us how to find the special characters and accented letters in OS X Mountain Lion using the Character Viewer, but that tool has changed names since then. Let’s take a look at the easiest way to type accented letters, and also brush up on where that viewer is located now.
Typing Accented Letters Without a Viewer
The first, and easiest way, to get to those accented letters is to just hold down the appropriate key. For example, if I wanted to type ‘à,’ I would hold down the letter ‘a’ on my keyboard for a couple of seconds. A menu will then pop up above your cursor with the available options for that character. You can choose the right one with your mouse, or simply press the number listed under the correct accented letter.
What If I Just Get Repeated Letters?
If you never see the pop-up menu and instead get repeated characters from your long keypress, chances are you’ve changed the keypress behavior. You likely did so with this command in the Terminal app:
defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool false
If you want to enable the accented characters pop-up, you’ll have to reverse that command. Do so by opening the Terminal app again, and entering this command:
defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool true
I’d Rather Just Use the Keyboard Viewer, So How Do I Do That?
If you’d prefer to find your accented characters with the Keyboard Viewer, you’ll have to enable it, assuming you haven’t already done so. To turn the Keyboard Viewer on in your menu bar, start off by going to System Preferences, and clicking Keyboard.
From the Keyboard tab, make sure Show keyboard and emoji viewers in menu bar is checked. Once you’ve done that, you can close System Preferences.
A new icon will have appeared in your menu bar, usually right beside your username. The icon looks vaguely like a keyboard dominated by the ⌘ symbol. Click on that icon, then click Show Keyboard Viewer.
Now you should see a keyboard on your screen. If you press the Option key, Command key, or other keypress combinations, you’ll see accents and other options for your keyboard.