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How to add accents on Mac quickly

3 min read

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you needed to type an accented character on Mac and you didn’t know how? 

Letters with accents are not as common in English, so you might be able to get away with it for some time. Although, it feels great to write things correctly: café, résumé, naïve. If you read the New Yorker, you’ve certainly seen diacritical marks on words like coöperate, which are used to avoid ambiguity in pronunciation. 

Once you venture into other languages, such as Spanish, French, or German, knowing how to type accents on keyboard becomes imperative, since words might take a different meaning otherwise. 

So it’s better to know the most common accent codes and how to add them quickly. Let’s explore a few ways of doing exactly that. 

How to do letter accents on Mac

Letter accents, often called diacritics or diacritical marks, are most commonly placed over vowels, such as é, ô, ï, ü, etc. However, some languages use them for consonants too, like š, ç, ñ, etc. 

Some diacritics are optional, but ignoring others can be akin to not finishing writing a letter. It’s just better to know them and to follow the rules. Especially, given that typing Spanish and French accent marks is so easy once you know how. 

Glyphfinder is the fastest way to type any accented character on Mac. it’s a lightweight utility that lives in your menu bar and provides instant access to more than 34,000 characters, ranging from emojis to accents to other typographic signs. 

To use Glyphfinder, you can either browse its library of special characters or type the character you need in the search bar. If you’re not sure of the name of the accent you need, just search for accents and pick one manually. 

Overall, Glyphfinder contains all possible character variations that you might need. So it can be the only app you need to use for both emojis and other character selection.


How to type accented letters using the accent menu

Another way to type accented characters on Mac, without using third-party apps is called the accent menu. 

The accent menu can be called upon in most situations where text input is required. When typing, try to press and hold the letter to which you want to add an accent. A small menu with an available selection of accents will appear above, each with a corresponding number. Press the number you need on the keyboard (e.g. 1, 2, or 3) and the accent would be added automatically. 

What’s great about the accent menu is that it only shows you the available variations of any given letter and it works in most text editors or forms. 

However, sometimes, especially on the web, the accent menu is restricted. And your typing speed will definitely slow down overall.

the Mac accent menu

How to use dead keys for typing accented characters regularly

If you find yourself regularly typing French or Spanish accents on keyboard and want to do it faster — you can try typing with dead keys. 

Dead keys are basically alt codes for accents. If you type Option + E, you’ll see an acute accent (´) appear, then simply type any letter that fits that accent to add it (e.g. “e”). 

Adding Spanish or French keyboard accents with dead keys can be very fast. The challenge is remembering the key combinations for each accent: 

  • Acute (´) accent ➙ Option + E
  • Grave (`) accent ➙ Option + `
  • Circumflex (ˆ) accent ➙ Option + I
  • Tilde (˜) ➙ Option + N
  • Dieresis (¨) ➙ Option + U

Some other special characters, such as cedilla (ç) and ß can be type with Option + C and Option + S respectively. 

As long as you remember these Option variations, you can be typing accented characters with no delay at all. 

dead keys

How to type accents with Character Viewer

The last way to write special characters is with French or Spanish accents copy and paste from the Character Viewer. 

Character Viewer is a default macOS utility with a menu of most supported characters and character variations, including emoji, math symbols, punctuation, currency symbols, and more. 

There are a few ways to call up the Character Viewer. You can use the Control + ⌘ + Space shortcut. Some new Macs are able to open the Character Viewer with the fn key. 

Another option is to: 

  1. Go to System Preferences ➙ Keyboard
  2. Switch to Input Sources
  3. Check “Show Input menu in menu bar”
  4. Click on the input menu 
  5. Choose Show Emoji & Symbols 

Character Viewer

When you have a Character View menu open, you can browse or search for the character you need, find an accented variation of it, and then either copy it with the right click of the mouse or double-click on it to paste.

As you can see, it’s possible to add accents on Mac in quite a few ways. Glyphfinder is still the best and the most thorough way to do so. But using an accent menu, dead keys, or Character Viewer can also be beneficial. 

Best of all, Glyphfinder is available to you absolutely free for seven days through the trial of Setapp, a platform with more than 230 Mac and iOS apps across all categories, from translating anything with Mate Translate to writing and publishing with Ulysses. Try every Setapp app at no cost today and realize the full potential of your Mac. 

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