Keyboard shortcuts for special characters on Mac
May 4, 2019 11:35 PM   Subscribe

I would like to assign custom combinations of keystrokes to type special characters (letters in a non-English script, all in the 'emoji and symbols' menu) on my Mac. The keystroke combinations should work systemwide, failing that at least in the browser and office programs. I am 99% certain that this worked on my previous laptop (also a Mac) last year, but I've googled for hours and can't find it, which makes me feel like I'm losing my mind! But mainly, I just need to be able to type these damn letters...

What I want: in any program, to be able to hold down a modifier key (don't much care which) plus a letter key and type an exotic character, while staying in the US-English keyboard layout and with language set to English. The dream is to replace the Greek characters available via opt-d for delta etc. with my exotic characters.

Things I have tried:
- holding down letter keys until the little menu pops up. Doesn't have the letters I need.
- inserting from the 'Show Emoji and Symbols' menu. Painfully slow and clunky (sometimes I need to type multiple exotic characters per sentence).
- switching between input languages. This works, but is also clunky, plus I'd rather not memorize a bunch of new combinations when I have the old ones I used to use down pat.
- recording macros. As far as I can tell, this only works in MS Word.
- using a remapper. I tried Karabiner, but it seemed only to allow remapping of individual keys, not key combinations (I'm not familiar with the program so maybe I missed something?)

If this is now impossible (ARGH) it would be useful to know that too. Thanks!
posted by ogorki to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not exactly what you’re asking for, but you can use autoreplace to change a string of characters to whatever you want, i.e. one of the defaults is that if you type (c) it automatically replaces it with ©.

It’s in System Preferences>Keyboard>Text.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 11:42 PM on May 4, 2019

Best answer: It looks like Ukelele can do what you want, as well.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 12:27 AM on May 5, 2019

I own karabiner and struggled to get it to do this sort of thing, though I imagine it can.

I ended up getting keyboard maestro and have been quite happy with it. A much simpler interface and it's fully oriented towards creating macros like this.
posted by wooh at 3:15 AM on May 5, 2019

Response by poster: On a page linked from Bloxworth Snout's Ukelele site, I found the simple solution I'd forgotten: replacing the default keyboard layout with the US-Extended one (now called 'ABC extended'). I will also check out keyboard maestro for the characters too obscure for US-Extended. Thanks both!
posted by ogorki at 10:13 AM on May 5, 2019

Control + Command + Space opens up the emoji explorer on Mac, it works in 99% of text fields, and you can even type searches within it 🙌
posted by furtive at 7:47 PM on May 5, 2019

I believe Karabiner could do this (e.g. this example turning caps lock into a hyper-key), but agree with Keyboard Maestro being a friendlier way.
posted by brentajones at 9:11 PM on May 5, 2019

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