Inseting foreign characters with a keyboard shortcut

I’m currently evaluating the trial version of Scrivener to see if it’s the right program for me. Is there some easy way to insert foreign characters (specifically, umlauts) via a keyboard shortcut? Having to stop writing so I can insert characters through the menu really breaks my train of thought. Of course, I could probably write them in some other program and then insert the document into Scrivener, but I would much rather get most of my writing done in one program, if possible.

Thanks for any help!


I’m not sure of all the shortcuts because Scrivener uses the OS X text engine, so they are defined by Apple, but for umlauts use Option-u, which will show the umlaut highlighted in orange, then type the letter you want beneath it. Option-e gives the ascending accent (can’t remember what it’s called, but as in café), and there are others, too.

Hope that helps.
All the best,

opt- i is circumflex; opt-`gives grave; opt-n gives tilde; opt-c gives c-cedilla; opt-shift-c gives C-cedilla … basically all the European language ones are there from the keyboard including most German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Scandinavian combinations … that’s using the English (UK) keyboard. The English (US) should be the same, but it’ll be different if you set a different language keyboard.

Eastern European languages are less well represented, though you can always switch keyboards through the international pane of the preferences. Let us know if you need more.


After years of using the ‘shortcuts’ for inserting accents, I finally bought the International Apple Keyboard (then $79). My work goes faster now. I write in both English and Spanish. I use the keyboard on a desktop iMac and take it when I will be working for long stretches away from my home office when traveling with a laptop. It is possible, I understand, to order the international keyboard on a laptop, but mine was a down-me-down. Next time I buy a laptop, I will definitely get the international keyboard. I’m so used to it, that ¡I get a little confused when using the standard one! ¿Does that help?


Actually, both my MBP and MBA, which were bought here in China, have the international keyboard. The only difference that that makes is that the key-cap for Shift-3 is marked ‘#’, but as I have set English (UK) in my keyboard preferences, with Shift-3 I get ‘£’. For ‘#’ I have to type Opt-3.

I presume, Esmeralda, that you have set your keyboard preferences for a Spanish keyboard, or you switch backwards and forwards between Spanish and some flavour of English, just as I do between English and Simplified Chinese (using QIM rather than the Apple offering). ¡Your Spanish punctuation marks are there on the UK keyboard with simple Opt-1 and Opt-Shift-? ¿

On the other hand, being where you are, perhaps your “International” keyboard is one with Spanish markings on the key-caps and set to the Spanish keyboard automatically.



Yes, the keys show the accents and punctuation. It took a bit to get used to, though. The ñ is where an English key shows the colon and semi-colon. Also, yes, I can enter Ñ and other capitals easily. Ç and ç are where the parentheses are on a regular keyboard, for example. I don’t need to switch between English and Spanish, since the alphabet is the same except for the special characters and accents.

Saludos, Esmeralda

I’m not sure if this will be of use to anyone, but just in case…

I’ve started to use Scrivener (and a brilliant little vocabulary program called Keep Your Word) to learn Ancient Greek and I have to switch between keyboard layouts almost every word or so for vocabulary, necessary because at this stage I don’t know my αλφα from my ώ μέγα…

Very few of the Greek characters are on my normal keyboard, so I also need the Greek Polyphonic keyboard - and it would seriously annoy me to have to use the mouse to change layouts.[1]

The best way I’ve found to manage this situation is to use the International pane in System Preferences to choose the two (and only two) keyboard layouts - British and Greek Polyphonic.

Check ‘Show input menu in menu bar’ so you can see which keyboard is being used. Then check to see which shortcut key is proposed for changing the layout - the default doesn’t work in my setup because in Greek it’s a dead key. You need a combination that is exactly the same in both layouts.

The only shortcut I could find that worked was ^ (control backtick). By using only two layouts, all I have to do is type alpha ^ αλφα ^ beta ^ βετα etc… You can use more layouts, but that becomes more complicated to manage and less easily becomes automatic.

It’s a simple trick, but hopefully it will help someone…


[1] Actually, it seriously annoys me to have to use the mouse at any time… One of the (many reasons) I really like Scrivener is the plethora of shortcut keys.[2]
[2] So the lack of a sensible alternative to the Windows Alt+letter structure for all menus is practically the only function which I prefer in Windows to OSX.[3]
[3] Apart from the silly one-button mouse of course, which annoys me.[1]

You do that just for me don’t you?

Take your 72 button USB mouse and shove it … into the usb port. Should work just fine. OSX found all 5 buttons on my logitech which has not been replaced with a wireless mighty (that side scroll is really nice) which has 3 buttons. You will no longer be doing the 2 finger tab or the ctrl tap for the context menus.


And for those situations where the OS cannot find and use all of the buttons, there is Steermouse. In fact, that might be a good option for mice that do get detected, anyway. You get per-application settings, macros, and all of that good stuff that should happen when using a mouse that resembles a cell phone.


I use a logitech mouse on the mac pro, but not on the macbook pro, as I don’t often
use that on a table. I work on the principle that they called them laptops for a reason. And also because I really do prefer to use the mouse as little as possible… Don’t really trust those shiny guey things much either.[2]


[1] Fair cop, guv. I’ll come quietly, but society’s to blame.
[2] Happily putting minimal no-X ubuntu installation onto HP 2133 very mini netbook as we speak…[3]
[3] The end.

My MBP was a replacement for several desktops. One of them a Solaris workstation. I was going to go the StinkPad + Red Hat but was so tired of being my own support guy that I made the 3rd best mistake of my life[1]. I am a command line refugee and do a bit in X11 still, but I have to admit that the OS X “slime mold” [5][6] has really grown on me.

One of my happy discoveries was the two finger tap. It will give you the right click. If you are not familiar with it give it a look.

[1] Getting married at 20, enlisting at 19.[2]
[2] I didn’t serve my enlistment for reasons that I may explain some day.[3]
[3] If you really want to start guessing I have given you a hint. [1][4]
[4] See I can do it too!
[5] An “old” timer on my team actually uses this to refer to GUI. He regales us with tales of manual boot loaders, drum memory and punch card stacks used to turn cobal and fortan into punch card stack the IBM and WANGS could actually use.
[6] Technically you will never read this as you are still in the infinite loop of 1, 2, 3.

Oops, apparently I misspelled inserting.

Thanks for telling me about the option u, that’s just what I needed! I actually only recently switched to a Mac, and I guess that was one of the things I hadn’t learned yet. I always had to set up my own usable shortcuts on my PC, so I just assumed I had to do that again. With that worry gone, maybe I can get some writing done. :smiley:

@ Esmeralda: yes, your “international” keyboard is a Spanish keyboard, and presumably it comes set to send the codes for that too …

@David: I have reset Cmd-space to switch keyboards between English and Chinese. Up until Apple included Spotlight, that was the standard built-in shortcut for changing keyboards and it’s also the shortcut if you use (Chinese) Windows. Apple’s switch to Cmd-space for Spotlight caused a fair amount of consternation, and not just here.

I haven’t set a new combination for Spotlight … maybe I should, but to me using the mouse is preferable to finger gymnastics … oooh, I wonder if I could use Function-space … that wouldn’t require too many contortions!


Have you tried Ctrl-F2? If you use Alt-letter for menus, you lose all the easy access to rarer characters from the keyboard. I loathed all the problems with creating/finding accented and other rarer characters under windows, some applications having their own systems, with others having to use Alt-numerical-code-on-keypad <bleurrgh!> Give me the Mac system any day.

Try typing French — or Greek for that matter — on a Chinese Windows box!



Ctrl-F2 isn’t really an answer because it’s Ctrl-F2 F Enter P Enter (for Page setup) for example - the menus don’t appear automatically and there’s no visual clue. And I understand that I can (and regularly do) make my own shortcuts - although that’s not a suitable answer for menu entries like Open Recent. It think it’s difficult to argue that either of these two methods is an adequate substitute for Alt+…

Now, that’s a long way from suggesting that I would want to lose the functionality that Mac has for alt- character - I think that’s excellent and I use it all the time. And I understand that this long after the original design decision it’s unlikely to be changed. But I’m not sure there was law of nature to suggest that, for example, the control key couldn’t have been used in the way the alt key is in windows. It was presumably a design decision, and for a certain class of user (me, for example), I think it was an omission.

I use Quicksilver (which I’ve mapped to cmd-space, so I can’t use that combination for ‘change keyboard layout’) and I use that to get round some of the issues, but there’s no doubt that I’m having to take extra steps to do something that really should be available in all programs ‘out of the box’.

It’s not too big an issue, and it doesn’t stop me thinking that OSX is a much better OS than windows, but for me it would be an even better product with a better default shortcut facility.