Special Characters, Macs, and Scrivener


I’m not a Mac user. I am most likely buying one, though, in a few days, and the very first thing I do with it will be purchasing Scrivener and getting started importing my old works-in-progress into new Scrivener files.

I do have a question, though. This relates to Macs in general, but it’s got a Scrivener-specific corollary, so I figured it’s okay to post here.

First, I write traditional fantasy. So there’s a lot of funny diacritical marks in my names. It’s incredibly hard to type them in Windows-based systems without the use of some additional application (I use JLG Keyboard). I know that Mac has some sort of key code system for getting the more common diacritics (acute accents, etc.) but I’m wondering if these key codes also work for less common symbols, things like vowels or ‘s’ with an overdot (ȧ, ṡ, etc.) or acute accents on consonants (ś).

As far as Scrivener goes, I’m wondering if these key codes, for both the more common characters and for the less common ones, if such key codes exist, will work in Scrivener, also? I know in Windows, a lot of “universal” key codes don’t work in certain programs. It’s infuriating, but so much of Windows is, I’m hoping Mac is different.

Finally, and this may be more for the Windows-beta forum (I asked but got no response there), how easy is it to import and export Windows-Scrivener files to Mac-Scrivener and vice versa? That is, if I switch to a Mac and Mac-Scrivener, will I then rule out ever using my PCs to write again?

Sorry for all the noob blah-blah-blah questions. Thanks, though, if you can help me out!

For special characters, it’s easy. For ¨, you just hit alt+u and then type the letter: ü. Alt+e gives ´stuff (é), alt+i gives ˆ(ê), etc. Also, with the Mac text system, you can set up substitutions. By default, something like © will give a copyright symbol (which isn’t showing up in this form right now). You can add your own substitutions.

Oh, that’s excellent to hear!

Now, do you know if most Mac fonts support some of the lesser-used Unicode characters? Those symbols I mentioned with the overdot (ȧ, ṡ, ġ) are very uncommon, I think. I don’t even know what language uses them, to be honest, besides the one I created. I know that many Windows fonts don’t support them, and therefore trying to type them creates very odd things.

ȧ ṡ ġ
Yep - all available from the Mac (plus dozens of other variations I’d never considered), but not as easy to add as the ones Cinder6 mentioned. Basically there is a system-wide character viewer (accessible from the menu bar) which accesses every character and glyph from every font installed on your system.

Not all fonts will support these characters, but Character Viewer tells you which fonts will support them. If you select the character/glyph you want, it provides a preview of it in every supported font on the system. Not bad for a couple of clicks.

Once you go Mac, it’s hard to go back. :slight_smile:

Macs and Windows can and do use the same fonts. There are some differences, such as OS X primarily using a variant of Helvetica instead of Times (or Calibri). I don’t think Helvetica comes standard on Windows, just like Calibri doesn’t come standard on the Mac (which is unfortunate; I like Calibri, but not enough to pay $300 for it). Helvetica does support the expanded character set, though, as does Scrivener’s default font (Optima). I’m not sure what types of fonts you’re used to using, though, and I’m no typographer :wink:

EDIT: Overdots aren’t available as a handy combination, unfortunately. Which is kind of odd, because a few of the alt+ combos just give normal letters and seem wasted. I did find å, but that’s the only one, and it’s a circle, to boot.

You can also pull together your commonly used (but not available with the alt-key trick) special characters in a “favorites” collection to make them fast to access and insert via the Special Characters dialogue. Most programs let you open the Special Characters sheet quickly with the option-command-T shortcut, Scrivener included.

On your other point, compatibility between Mac and Windows versions of Scrivener if definitely the ultimate goal. At this point it’s mostly doable, but there are occasionally little hiccups, given that Windows Scrivener is still in beta. Also since the Mac version is years further along, some features are of course available in the Mac version that are not in the Windows–you won’t (shouldn’t–again, at this point in the beta, I’m not guaranteeing!) lose anything in the project when you transfer, but e.g. custom meta-data that you add when working on the Mac won’t be visible when working in the Windows version, since at the moment it has no way to display that. Down the road in development, the Windows version may also grow so that it has some features that the Mac version doesn’t have, or may implement design decisions differently, but it definitely sounds like the projects themselves should always be able to bounce from platform to platform.

You’ll love your Mac, though. :wink: I switched a few years ago and haven’t regretted it a jot.

Is there any way to assign a quick shortcut keycode (the alt-key trick) to these little-used symbols I’ve been mentioning? I realize I can always use the Special Characters window, but I’m a little worried about how often I have to use these characters. When I’m writing – fiction, at least – I don’t like to be disturbed until I’ve used up that rush of creative juices. (The phrase ‘creative juices’ sounds gross, but it’s late so I’m sticking with it!)

Oh, I have no doubt. I’m actually half-afraid to get a Mac, for fear that I like it so much I want to switch all my computers (I have three) over to Macs. One problem: I’m a gamer (though that’s something of a misnomer, since I only play two games) and I’ve heard that Macs aren’t the best systems for that. But I hear they’re getting better, so who knows!

I forgot to mention that I am (obviously) beat-testing the Windows version now. I like it a lot, but the fact that it will always be one step behind the Mac version bothers me. I really like some of the Mac features – like the comments in the Inspector, for instance – that aren’t available yet in the Windows version. It’s like getting the ugly stepsister even though you proposed to the gorgeous daughter. (This metaphor doesn’t even make sense, since I’m not attracted to women, but you get my drift.) Also, I’m impatient.

I also like the idea of using Aeon Timeline, which is, as far as I can tell, the only available timelining program that allows you to create custom (i.e., “fantasy novel”) calendar systems. Since even the Mac version of that’s still in beta, I can’t imagine anything coming out for Windows in the near future!

Not “always” - but for the next year or so, certainly. There’s no real way around that other than ceasing Mac development and not releasing the Windows version for another year or so, which wouldn’t be advantageous to anybody. The Mac version has been in development for six years, the Windows version for just over a year, so it’s natural it’s going to take some time to catch up. (Word for Mac has only just caught up with the Windows version, after all…)

Ha, I doubt Matt has any plans for a Windows version at all at the moment, seeing as he hasn’t even released the Mac version yet and has been working his socks off. :slight_smile: (Aeon is not affiliated with us in any way, by the way.)

All the best,

Another approach is an application like TextExpander which watches your keyboard input and replaces input text according to rules you’ve set up. You give it a set of pairs: an input sequence and its replacement text, and whenever you type any of those input sequences you end up with the replacement text. That way you only have to figure out the tricky characters once.

I’ll bet TextExpander is the better approach, but another would be to teach the Mac spell check what the correct spelling is for your names, and then just type the same names without the special characters. Later, run a spell-check and it should (I’m guessing here) suggest the version of the name with the special character.

Another option, especially if you like the old-fashioned “clicky” keyboards (circa late 80’s IBM keyboards), is the Matias Tactile Pro 3. The big bonus: a lot of the special characters are laser-etched on the keys. Just hit option-[key] or shift-option-[key] to get that particular character, assuming it’s available for your chosen font. I’m considering buying it, but don’t have one in front of me to check for the characters you’re asking about, so I can’t say if the keys show what you’re after.

What’s better about using TextExpander over, say, the standard Symbol & Text Substitution option in System Preferences?

Power, basically. I’m not as versed in TextExpander (though I imagine it has pretty much all of this as well), but in Typinator you can set up substitution sets that only work in some applications; you can rapidly create new substitutions with Services while you write; use intelligent capitalisation where how you type in the substitution influences the case of the result; search your substitutions in a Spotlight style interface; use tokens, like one that will insert the contents of your clipboard, and another that places the cursor is a precise spot after substitution, as well as date and time stamps; much more easily create Huge substitutions, pages in length—great for frequently asked questions; use rich text and graphics; etc.

TextExpander looks like it costs money, and I’m not exactly rolling in dough – thank you, tax refund, for the money to buy a Mac. I may have to try a method that comes already with the Mac, like the Character Selection dialog box or the standard Symbol & Text Substitution option.

Hmm… I have no idea what half these words mean! Typinator? Services? Spotlight? Huge? I’m so out of the loop!

Oh, I know, but I found it through the LitandLat website, so in my head, there’s a connection. :slight_smile:

Another option for inserting special characters is to create your own keyboard using Ukelele scripts.sil.org/cms/scripts/page … id=ukelele . It’s fairly easy to use, and once you get a keyboard to your liking, you can just opt to use it when you’re writing your novel with the special names. And it’s free!

Hmm… love the idea, love the name, love the cost! If it works as well as you implied, I’ll be in heaven!

Now, to decide between a MacBook Pro and a MacBook Air… oof.

This is super late now, but I only just discovered it and I feel the need to share. You can actually get most of these easily if you enable the extended keyboard layout (at least for US Extended) in the input sources for Language & Text under System Preferences. (You can switch between this and the regular keyboard via the menu or shortcuts if you’re having trouble with it in some programs.) With that enabled, you’re not limited to only certain letters for the accent combination, so e.g. you can get ṡ by typing Opt-W and then S.