As a long-time Mac user, I once had to rely on Key Caps, an
early Mac helper that would show you where special characters
hid on a keyboard. Holding down Option and Shift-Option would
reveal the secrets of π and ‰ and accent marks.
That feature never disappeared, though it did recede from view,
and was renamed Keyboard Viewer. You may rarely need it—except
when you’re trying to type a key that your keyboard doesn’t
allow or you can’t find.
This might happen if you’ve got a wonky laptop keyboard that
you’re planning to take in for replacement, or if you’re using
a Mac set to a language you don’t speak or if you’re trying to
enter characters in that language.
I’ve heard from readers who can’t type a particular key because
something’s gone wrong with their hardware keyboard and they
can’t summon up a replacement keyboard to plug in and use. With
Keyboard Viewer, you can click keys and those characters are
inserted wherever your cursor is. (One reader couldn’t enter
their password in order to prep a machine to take in for
repair, because the password contained…a character that the
keyboard could no longer type.)
In the Keyboard preference pane’s Input Sources tab, you can
click the + button in the lower left and add keyboards of many
languages. Check Show Input Menu in Menu Bar, and a tiny
palette icon appears. (If you have multiple keyboards added, a
flag or icon appears that’s associated with the keyboard
currently selected, instead.)
As a bonus, the Keyboard Viewer also highlights keys as you
type them, if you ever wanted to visualize your physical typing
This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted
by Macworld reader Jack.
Ask Mac 911
We’ve compiled a list of the questions we get asked most
frequently along with answers and links to columns:
read our super FAQ to see if your question is covered. If
not, we’re always looking for new problems to solve! Email
yours to [email protected] including screen captures as
appropriate, and whether you want your full name used. Every
question won’t be answered, we don’t reply to email, and we
cannot provide direct troubleshooting advice.