Special Characters

You can type many special characters, including diacritics and “”-style quotation marks, using keyboard shortcuts. The shortcuts vary with keyboard layout, but you can discover them using the Keyboard Viewer in macOS.

First, go to System PreferencesKeyboardKeyboard. Make sure that Show Keyboard, Emoji, & Symbol Viewers in menu bar is checked.

Then, then check Show Input menu in menu bar in the Input Sources tab.

After this you can view the keyboard viewer from the Keyboard menu in the menu bar (for example, showing the keyboard viewer for Portuguese):

Then you can find the characters you’d like to type on the keyboard:

Hold down , , or ⇧⌥ to see additional characters (here I’m pressing , so the key’s color changes):

The orange-colored keys are diacritics that you combine with other letters, for example type the orange “~” then “a” and you’ll get “ã”.

You can also hold down a letter to get a popup with diacritic alternatives. For example, holding down “a” gives these options:

This can be disabled (to give the traditional “holding down = repeat the letter” behavior) or re-enabled using the following terminal commands (you’ll need to restart to see the change):

defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool false
defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool true

Curly Quotes

Typing smart quotes

You can type smart quotes directly using a keyboard shortcut:

  • Left double quotation mark — ⌥[
  • Right double quotation mark — ⌥⇧[
  • Left single quotation mark — ⌥]
  • Right single quotation mark — ⌥⇧]
  • « Double left-pointing angle quotation mark — ⌥\
  • » Double right-pointing angle quotation mark — ⌥⇧\
  • Single left-pointing angle quotation mark — ⌥⇧3
  • Single left-pointing angle quotation mark — ⌥⇧4

These shortcuts can vary with keyboard layout, but you can discover them (and many other special characters) using the Keyboard Viewer. For more on this please read our knowledge base article “Special characters”.

Automatically convert “dumb” to “smart” quotes

macOS also has a convenient, system-wide smart quote replacement feature:

Setting up smart quotes

Activating smart quotes

Via right-click (Control-Click) or EditSubstitutionsSmart Quotes


Auto replacement of “…” (three periods) to “…” (a single ellipsis character) is due to OS X’s Text Replacement feature. This lets you create snippets for frequently typed text that will be automatically expanded.

To prevent the ellipsis replacement, you can either turn this replacement off in System PreferencesLanguage & TextText:

Or turn off all text replacements there, or in Writer:

The Text Replacement setting is in the right-click (Control-click) menu, and in EditSubstitutions

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