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Another way to enter special characters Apps
Today I saw a hint on using AppleScript and Automator to enter special symbols into a document.

That is fine if you need only a few special symbols, but I am a meteorology student, and almost every equation has almost every Greek symbol. Apple allows software re-mapping of keys, which you can do by hand, but there is also an application for doing that.

A freeware program called Ukelele gives you the option to do whatever you wish to your keyboard. All you have to do is click on a key on the screen then use the special characters window to enter in whatever symbol you want. It's tedious but once completed you don't have to change it again.

Unless you change the US keyboard, it is best to make a new keyboard, which you can then switch between in the menu bar as long as you check 'Show Input menu in menu bar' in System Preferences » Language & Text. You will need to go there anyway to enable your new keyboard.

Using this process I was able to set my keyboard so that when the caps lock is on, instead of yelling, it uses the Greek keyboard map for both lower and upper case. If the caps lock is on and I hold the option key down, then I get English layout. If caps lock is off but I hold down the option key, I get special math symbols I normally use such as ∫ ∬ ∆ π, including an occasional important Greek letter. You are not limited to just one symbol though, you can have a key print off word or a string, though there seems to be a limit of 19 characters.

[crarko adds: I tested this, and it works as described. As a Mathematics major a long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away I remember the joys of trying to print all sorts of special characters longhand. I always felt badly for the poor people trying to grade those papers, although I later was one of them myself.]
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Another way to enter special characters | 12 comments | Create New Account
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Use LaTeX for Mathematics
Authored by: googoo on Feb 18, '11 08:53:46AM
It is nice to have access to special characters for occasional use, but LaTeX is the way to go to typeset mathematical equations. There is a great (and free) Mac implementation of LaTeX available at


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Use LaTeX for Mathematics
Authored by: hamarkus on Feb 18, '11 10:34:39AM
I was about to say the same, nothing is easier as this:

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Use LaTeX for Mathematics
Authored by: dom on Feb 18, '11 11:35:32PM

uh, I think option-p is easier than $\pi$

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Use LaTeX for Mathematics
Authored by: unforeseen:X11 on Feb 18, '11 10:55:14AM

Absolutely agree, it's amazing how many students fiddle with Pages/Word when they could live happy lives using LaTeX.

this is not the sig you`re looking for.

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Use LaTeX for Mathematics
Authored by: dschneiderch on Feb 18, '11 01:07:52PM

LaTeX is not useful to students if professors expect papers in .docx for editing and journals/conferences expect submissions in .docx

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Use LaTeX for Mathematics
Authored by: Jamin on Feb 21, '11 09:41:53AM
An even handier solution than the full-blown LaTeX solution is to use LaTeXiT (standard in the mactex package mentioned above) an awesome little app that lets you not bother with all the details like the LaTeX headers and \begin{document} and all that, but instead just type in an equation and then typeset, and it gives you a beautiful little pdf (or jpeg or tiff or a variety of other formats) that has been cropped right down to your equation. This is how I put every equation and nearly every greek character into my slides.

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Use LaTeX for Mathematics
Authored by: smosit on Feb 22, '11 07:25:03AM

agreed. i just started using LaTeXiT a month or so ago for doing my calculus homework.. it's great! no set of keyboard shortcuts is going to create the kind of complex equations that i have to type up. here's link to a wikibooks page:

it's very helpful for learning the necessary syntax.

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Try the built-in Character Viewer
Authored by: dbs on Feb 18, '11 09:07:01AM

System Preferences > Language & Text
Enable the "Keyboard & Character Viewer"
Enable "Show Input menu in menu bar"

Then select "Show Character Viewer" from the menu bar and you get access to all unicode characters in the current font. There's even a built-in section for math and a favorites you can change yourself.

This mostly only works with Cocoa applications, though. But you can use the "Show Keyboard Viewer" to find letters for the current keyboard layout.

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Not just for special characters
Authored by: everkleer80 on Feb 18, '11 01:00:31PM

A few months ago, I spilled some water (yes, just water) on my keyboard and two of my keys died: the Mute/F7 key and the 0/) key. Fortunately I never use mute or F7, and I can easily use the numpad for 0 (although I still haven't trained my brain to instinctively use that), so the only thing I can't type is ). For a while I just clicked the key in the keyboard viewer (accessible from the input menu), but I searched and searched for a [graphical] way to remap keys. Finally I found Ukelete and, although its not simple and there was a bit of a learning curve, it ended up working great for me! I just remapped the ) character to Opt-Shift-9 (though I think I may change it to shift-dash(-) since that seems a bit more intuitive and I use the right paren a bit more often than I use underscore.) I meant to post a hint like this for a while and never got around to it. Thanks for doing it for me!

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Not just for special characters
Authored by: pbeyersdorf on Feb 19, '11 12:57:51PM

I do the same thing! I use the option key to access greek letters in my layout, and while I do use LaTeX for typesetting things, there are still MANY times when it is not practical and entering unicode symbols makes more sense. For instance in typing in a discussion forum I can quickly type ∇Φ=0 or ∫r(θ)dθ=π or whatever without needing plugins, or extra steps to render and upload images. I can also include symbols in plain text documents such as emails.

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Another way to enter special characters
Authored by: Balthamos on Feb 18, '11 01:32:09PM

+1 to Latex.

However, you do know that the default US keyboard has access to all sorts of characters, albeit not every character you may need.

It has built-in support for dead keys (,,), along with Greek () and other commonly used symbols (like , , , etc.) by utilizing the Option and Option+Shift modifier(s).

To look at them, open up the Keyboard Viewer via the Input menu (you may need to enable it first from Input Sources in Lang & Text Sys Prefs). Now hold down Option or Option + Shift. You can see what keys input what symbols, with the dead keys in orange. Of course, you could view this in Ukelele (which is a nice program, by the way) and manipulate them to your hearts desire, but it is nice to know how to input special characters using the standard layout.

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Another way to enter special characters
Authored by: vocaro on Feb 21, '11 09:26:41PM
You can also use my Symbols Dashboard widget to enter special characters.

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