Apple revamped the old Character Palette utility and turned it into the Character Viewer in Mavericks (OS X 10.9). And yet…there’s still not a lot of great documentation. So here’s my version with screen caps.

If you need to insert a few symbols and you can’t remember a numeric code or get to a keyboard, this is great tool to insert any Unicode character Apple supports. It’s also a lot more stable than very early versions which crashed a lot. Huzzah.

Activate Character Viewer

This utility was once a “keyboard” to be checked off, but now it’s a preference in the Keyboard preferences.
  1. Go to the Apple menu and open Systems Preferences.
  2. Click the Keyboard option.
  3. In the Keyboard window, check the option Show Keyboard and Character Viewers in menu bar at the bottom of the window.
    Keyboard preferences

Customize Viewer

The Customize feature is a great way to filter your character options to just those you need. Of course I think I need everything…
  1. In the upper right of your desktop, click the flag icon to open the list of activated keyboards and select Show Character Viewer.
    Note: This tool may also be available in the menus of some text editors as Emoji and Symbols.
  2. Click the Gear icon in the upper left and select Customize list.
    Viewer shows sets of blocks and Rightward Arrows with different font options
  3. A list organized by type and region appears. Check blocks you often use then click Done to close.
    Note: Checking the Unicode option under Code Tables allows you to see every character supported.
    Symbol blocks options include Arrows, Braille, Currency, Emoji

Insert Characters

  1. In your document position your cursor where you need to insert a character.
  2. Open the Character Viewer from the top menu on the desktop.
    Note: If you cannot find the viewer, follow the instructions above to activate it.
  3. Select the block you need to access in the left window.
  4. Highlight the character you wish to insert.
  5. Double click on it to insert it in your document.
    Note: Some software packages may not support insertion. Others such as Adobe Creative Suite may require you to change fonts to one that includes the character.
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