Using the keyboard for special characters

March 28, 2009 / How to type certain special characters, or replace them with reference codes in HTML.

This is to make my life easier; maybe it will help occasional others. There are some comprehensive tables available out there covering the full range of special characters, but these are the ones I’m always asked about by web content editors when their browsers retch up freakout boxes. This is also comes up when working with text in Photoshop, and writing in text input fields on Delicious and Twitter, hence the OS-based keystroke combinations.

Using the keyboard to produce certain special characters
Character Mac keystrokes Windows keystrokes HTML name and number references
Left single quotation mark (‘) option + ] alt + 0145 ‘ ‘
Right single quotation mark (’) option + shift + ] alt + 0146 ’ ’
Left double quotation mark (“) option + [ alt + 0147 “ “
Right double quotation mark (”) option + shift + [ alt + 0148 ” ”
En dash (–) option + hyphen alt + 0150 – –
Em dash (—) option + shift + hyphen alt + 0151 — —
Lowercase a with acute accent (á) (option + e) + a alt + 0225 á á
Lowercase e with acute accent (é) (option + e) + e alt + 0233 é ß
Lowercase e with grave accent (è) (option + `) + e alt + 0232 è è
Lowercase u with umlaut (ü) (option + u) + u alt + 0252 ü Ü

† See for example the W3C’s Character entity references in HTML 4, this multiplatform table of keyboard shortcuts for special characters, this comparison of Mac OS X and Windows XP keyboard functions, and this table of Windows alt code references (PDF file).

2 responses

  1. Joe Clark

    In the normal course of events, there’s no reason to use character entities, a relic from a former decade when nobody knew how to save a file in Unicode (as some extremely high-end standardistas still did not know how to do circa 2007). Just type the damned characters.

    March 29th, 2009 at 7:37 am #

  2. Adrian Cooke

    You’re right Joe, although absence of the “normal course of events” regarding Unicode is why I made that part of the table.

    March 30th, 2009 at 7:32 pm #

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