Type Special Characters

Option key

The handy Option key.

So you’re writing a technical report for your electronics engineering professor and you need to insert a symbol for the unit of resistance, Ohms.

Okay, maybe that scenario is unlikely unless you’re me. But what if you’re typing an email to your friend in Charlottetown, PEI and you want to tell them it’s still five degrees Celsius here? Surely you don’t want to write out the whole word “degrees!” Try this: type the number 5, then press Option-K together. Then type a capital C. The result: 5˚C, simple as that.

Back to my original example: technical reports. You can hunt around in Word’s list of special characters if you like. Apple’s equivalent is searchable, at least – choose Edit > Special Characters or press Control-Command-Space to bring it up. But almost every key on your keyboard has a special character associated with it already, enabling you to say that a resistor has an resistance of 6.8Ω without lifting your fingers off the keyboard. That Ohms symbol, the capital Greek letter omega, can be typed by pressing Option-Z. The letter choice isn’t random, either – the electrical symbol for impedance (which isn’t limited to just resistance) is Z.

There are other symbols, too, such as the copyright and registered symbols (Option-G and Option-R, respectively). In TextEdit, uppercase and lowercase editions of accented characters and other odd-looking uncles of our twenty-six alphabetical letters are available by using Option- and Shift-Option-[letter].

Try some key combinations yourself, but be sure to experiment in an innocuous app like TextEdit since these keyboard shortcuts might mean different things to different apps!