How to insert symbols into Scrivener?

I’ve been using Scriv for a few months, and as a writer I’m loving it - so much so that I want to start using it for class notes, where I think its organizational system would excel.

Here’s the rub: I study linguistics, and I need to be able to insert phonetic symbols, especially letters of the Greek alphabet, into my notes. So how do I do this? Surely OS X’s text system has a provision for these kinds of symbols. The problem is, I don’t think Scrivener has an “insert symbol” feature with a character palette. I tried cutting and pasting as a workaround, but even that didn’t work. Scrivener didn’t display the symbol I pasted in (Theta, in this case, drawn from Word).

If it helps, here’s a link to a page which explains the hassle linguists have to go to in order to reproduce the International Phonetic Alphabet when they’re writing:

Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

If you’re using just one (unicode) font maybe a solution can be programs like TextExpander, Typeit4Me or Typinator – you type an abbreviation in latin letters (or figures) and get whatever special character or word you want.

I can’t tell if that would be of any help for you at all.

Just one thing if it sounds interesting for you: All three programs offer both inserting plain text or formatted text snippets. So it would even work if you have to use a special linguistics font beside your normal text font. The problem with it is that, again in all three programs, formatted text means not just a different font but the whole set including font size etc. Which means that with formatted snippings you always get one particular font size, no matter if you had been typing the abbreviation in the normal text, in a footnote or a heading.

EDIT: The OS character palette does not work for you? For me it does. It’s a OS X service and Scrivener works with OS services – with Word I wouldn’t be so sure about.

What Suavito said. I just use the OS X character palette.

To make it easily accessible, go to the System Preferences/International/Input Menu tab. Check “character palette” and whatever other boxes apply, then check the “show input menu” box at the bottom.

I haven’t tried this with IPA, but it works fine for Greek and Japanese characters.


Edit > Special Characters in Scrivener also allows for pretty much any symbol the text system supports.

The OS character palette works fine for this, in fact, if you set it to “All characters”, under “Symbols” you have “Phonetic symbols”, which looks to me totally exhaustive. If you then have Font Variation open with “Containing selected character”, it will show you all the fonts on your system that include that particular character, you can highlight the one and the button turns to “Insert with font”.

For a specifically phonetic font, I use Charis SIL. I used to use Doulos SIL but followed the advice on the SIL IPA page when I moved up to 10.4 I think it was. The web page that the OP referred to says it doesn’t match TNR exactly … the problem I think is that it is graphically over-large by about 2 points. So if you are using TNR 12 as your main text font, you need to reduce Charis SIL, probably to 10 point to keep character and line-height the same.

I don’t know if anyone has produced a Mac keyboard macro for it. I don’t know how and I don’t use phonetics enough for it to be worth it to learn to do so. I can live with the “select character : highlight Charis SIL version : click insert with font” routine.

I guess you will need to have your export routine set to not override your draft settings or you’ll lose the phonetic font on export — to date, I haven’t had to export enough text with phonetics in it to make this an issue for me.


Thank you for all the responses. For a while, none of the info posted made any sense to me, because I was experiencing a bug, apparently a corruption of Leopard’s international data files which caused the character palette to disappear from any word processor that used the OS’s text system. It also changed the menu options in the International section of System Prefs so that “character palette” did not appear.

You can read about the bug, and the solution, on Apple’s support forum.

Now that I have that fixed, I can apply the advice given here. Thank you again, you all rock.