Thursday, January 20, 2011

Type Like a European

Do you know the simple way to add accents, tildes, umlauts, and other non-English diacritical marks to your text document?
In Apple’s Pages and TextEdit applications, go to the Edit menu and choose Special Characters. In Microsoft Word for Mac, go to the Insert menu and choose Symbol.
Up pops a cool Character Palette that includes most of the symbols you’re ever likely to need. Just place your cursor where you want the symbol, select your desired symbol from the palette, and click Insert.
So much for the simple way. How about the fast way?
You can drop symbols right in line as you type — without interrupting your flow to sift through special menus — by memorizing a few simple key commands. If you frequently type foreign words, it can be a real time-saver.
When you want to add a letter with a symbol in just about any Mac OS X application, hold down the Option key and press the appropriate symbol key. Release the keys and type the letter you want to receive the symbol. Take café — you type c, a, f, then press Option-E (to get the right-leaning acute accent), then e. Same for résumé, fiancée, or blasé.
As in most of these combinations, the acute accent key command is linked to the letter most likely to need the symbol in question — in this case, the letter e. But if you need to type the Italian limóne, say, you press Option-E, then o. For Spanish está, it’s Option-E, then a.
The left-leaning (grave) accent is simple to remember, because it has its own key: the ` above the Tab key. Just press Option-`and then the target letter: Voilà!
Some more easy ones:
  • Option-C produces the cedilla in façade and curaçao.
  • Option-N plus n yields the tilde in España and mañana. For the tilde in São Paulo, press Option-N plus a.
  • Option-I plus i creates the circumflex in huître, while Option-I plus e gets you fenêtre.
  • Option-U plus u puts the umlaut in German words like Übermensch. Follow Option-U with an o or an a to get the umlauts in Götterdämmerung.
  • Option-O gives you the stroked o in Nordic words like the Norwegian nevø.
  • Option-? and Option-1 create the inverted question marks and exclamation points that start some Spanish sentences. ¿Comprendes? ¡Sí!
Need to type a capital letter with an accent or other diacritical mark? Just press Option plus the appropriate key for your symbol, then press Shift as you type the letter you want. For example, to type Évian-les-Bains, use Option-E followed by a capital E.
The Special Characters window in Apple Pages and TextEdit.
The Symbol window in Microsoft Word for Mac.

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