Adding Accent Marks in OS X

Use the Mac’s Built-in AutoCorrect Feature to Add Accent Marks

Diacritical marks panel
Press and hold the character that needs an accent mark. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Ever since OS X Lion, the Mac operating system has supported the same method of adding diacritical marks to characters that are found in iOS devices. Now when you need to add an umlaut, trema, or another glyph to your writing, you no longer have to use a font character viewer to gain access to the appropriate diacritical mark.

This simple process is part of OS X's autocorrect spelling feature. As such, it should work for the vast majority of existing applications that use Mac’s built-in text handling. No doubt there are a few applications that won't support this new feature, likely because the developers have rolled their own text manipulation package, instead of using the one provided by OS X.

Using the Automatic Accent Marks System in OS X

  1. Open your favorite text editor.
  2. Start typing a word or sentence. When you get to a letter that needs an accent mark, continue to hold down the key for that character. After a short pause, a popover window will appear just above the character, displaying all the appropriate accent marks for that character.
  3. You can select the accent mark you wish to use by either clicking on the glyph or entering the number that displays just below each glyph.

When the Popover Accent Mark Doesn't Appear

There are two common reasons why the popover accent mark panel fails to appear. The first, as mentioned above, is because a few text editing apps don't use the text handling APIs built into OS X. These apps won't be able to make use of the simplified method of adding accent marks. Instead, the app may have its own method for adding the marks; check the manual or visit the application's support site for information.

The second common reason for the accent mark panel failing to appear is that the key repeat function is turned off in the Keyboard preference pane. The accent mark panel uses the key repeat function to determine that a character is being held down. Be sure to set the Key Repeat slider to one of the on positions.

Now that you have the accent mark panel working, you can sit back and enjoy a drink at your favorite café.

Published: 7/28/2011

Updated: 7/21/2015