Friday, June 24, 2011

How to add accents to letters without switching languages

Option key

How do you type café with the accent sign on top of the 'e'?

If you use several languages on your Mac you probably know that it is dead simple to switch between the languages (keyboard layouts): Control Command + Space for the two most recently used or Control +Option+Space to switch between more than two languages used. (You have to add language options in System Preferences.)
Important UPDATE: In current OS (July 2019, High Sierra), instead of Command key use Control+Space bar to swithc between the last two languages. To go through all the languages you use, add Option (alt) key to the combination. 

However, simply to add an accent (diacritical mark) to one or two letters in your text, you don't need to switch to French, Russian, Spanish or German.

Option key (the funny one between Control and Command) gives most commonly used diacritical signs: press Option and type 'e' to get acute accent, common in French and also used as a stress mark. The accent will appear highlighted in your document, then type 'e' or another letter that needs the accent - é, á, ó or í .

To see the available combinations open the Keyboard Viewer and press Option.

To add circumflex (Welsh tô bach – little roof) press Option and type 'i' to get the highlighted accent circumflex, then type the letter you need: ô, î, ê or â.

Tilde sign, common in Spanish, is with letter n – ñ.

Two dots (trema or umlaut) over some letters in Russian, German and other languages are with u – ü or ë.

Cedilla, the little tail attached in French to 'c' when it should be pronounced as 's', is, logically, with 'c' – press Option and type ç.

It's cleverly programmed – it won't let you put diacritics on letters with which they are not used.

Switching between language layouts can be an annoying distraction, so learning this little trick can help improve efficiency. It takes little time to memorise accent combinations and then you use them automatically, much like touch-typing.

There is an article on Wikipedia describing diacritical marks and accents, their names and uses.

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  1. Does this work for the ipad?

    1. The screen keyboard on my iPad doesn't have the Option key. So it doesn't. Does yours?

      I sometimes use a Bluetooth keyboard to type on the iPad, which has the Option key. Then it works.

      Please let me know if you find a workaround or a way to customise the iPad keyboard.

  2. Anonymous11:17 pm

    On an iPad, just press and hold the vowel or other letter that needs the diacritical mark. It will show the various options. Without lifting your finger, slide it to the letter you wish.

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