Apple’s default keyboard offers limited characters to type on your document. You can use the modifier keys like option, command and control to insert special characters and symbols. For example, option + 2 will make the trademark symbol ™. Similarly, you can change the input method to Unicode Hex Input to use alt code shortcuts like Windows computer. However, do you know that Mac comes with a built-in app that you can use for inserting special characters and symbols.
What is Character Viewer?
Apple’s macOS by default comes with many useful apps. Some apps like Pages and Numbers are visibly installed that you can see from Applications folder. Few other utilities like Screenshot can be found in “Applications > Utilities” folder. However, there are some hidden apps also part of macOS that you can open using a menu item or with shortcut keys. Character Viewer is one such a hidden app that comes default with macOS. It is an independent app you can use to insert hundreds of thousands of symbols, special characters and emoji without changing input source or font.
How to Open Character Viewer App?
You can open Character Viewer from any app using one of the below methods. First, position the cursor where you want to insert the symbol:
- Go to “Edit > Emoji & Symbols” menu or
- Press “Command + Control + Space” shortcut keys
This will open Character Viewer as pop-up, double click on any symbol on the app to insert that symbol. After inserting, you can close Character Viewer to continue your work. Good thing is, it will work on all default apps like Pages, Keynote and Numbers as well as on third-party apps like Microsoft Office applications.
Note: Microsoft Office applications like Word has a symbol utility to insert symbols. You can access the utility from “Insert > Advanced Symbols” menu.
Character Viewer Modes
By default, the app will open in a mini mode like below.
The mini mode is similar to the iPhone emoji keyboard. However, if you are not comfortable with smaller screen, click on the symbols icon on the top right corner to expand the app to full view mode.
Categories of Symbols Available
The app contains huge number of symbols categorized into different group based on their Unicode point. Below are some of the default categories of symbols you can view in Character Viewer app by default.
- Emoji group which contains sub-categories similar to smartphones
- Bullets / Stars
- Currency Symbols
- Letterlike Symbols
- Math Symbols
If these categories of symbols are not sufficient, you can customize to add more categories. Click on the gear settings icon available on top left corner of the app and choose “Customize List…” option.
You will see plenty of categories in a small pop-up within the app that were hidden before.
Select the categories you want use frequently and click “Done” button to add them in the right sidebar of the app. Remember to keep less number of categories so that you can easily navigate through them.
Finding Relevant Symbols
If you frequently want to insert symbols on documents and chat conversations then it make sense to learn how to effectively use Character Viewer app. It has four columns showing the following details:
- First Column – categories
- Second Column – subcategories for emoji or strokes for some scripts like Hanja
- Third Column – list of symbols, characters or emoji
- Fourth Column – symbol preview, related characters and font variations
In addition to the columns, the app has a top bar having a search box and a gear icon to customize the view. You can use multiple ways to filter and search symbols.
- Scroll down to find relevant symbols.
- Click on the categories and search the symbol.
- Type the symbol name in the search box. For example, type “hand” to find all hands symbols.
- Enter Unicode point in hexadecimal format in the search box. For example, type 1F600 in the search box to filter grinning face emoji.
Click on the symbol to preview in the last column with the following options.
- Get Unicode point and UTF-8 code for the symbol.
- Find related characters for the selected symbol.
- Get hundreds of font variations for the applicable symbols. Remember, emoji and other solid symbols may not have any font variations.
Customizing Character Viewer App
There are few customization options available in the app:
- Click on the gear settings icon and choose the character size to show in the app. You can choose small, medium or large option based on your comfortability.
- You can add the symbols to favorites by clicking on “Add to Favorites” button under the preview on the last column. Quickly find your favorite symbols by clicking on the “Favorites” option available in first column. Any time you can remove the symbols from your favorites list by clicking on “Remove from Favorites” button.
- You can also click on “Frequently Used” to view most recently inserted symbols. Click on the gear icon and select “Clear Frequently Used Characters” to remove the frequently used list of symbols.
Character Viewer will automatically open in dark or light theme based on the parent app’s theme.