University of Oregon

How to Type Special Characters


This tip sheet is intended for users wanting to type special/foreign characters on a USA keyboard; other keyboard languages, entry alphabets and display languages are covered elsewhere.

On a Mac

Special characters are easy on a Mac.

  1. Hold the Option key.
  2. Type the accent application key. Here is a small list:

    e: á

    `: à

    u: ä

    n: ã

    ^: â

    (null): å

  3.  Type the letter you would like to apply the accent to.
  4. For more characters, you can hold option and hit another key, or hold option + shift and another key. For a larger list, see this page.

On Windows

With AllChars

The program AllChars is available from Sourceforge, as Windows does not have the native ability to type special characters in a simple fashion like *nix systems. 


  1. Unzip the three files to a folder anywhere.
  2. Run the .exe and place it in your Start up folder if you'd like it to run at start up.
  3. Right-click the icon in the system tray and choose 'Configuration.'
  4. Under 'Key to use as <Compose>', choose which key you'd like to hold down while typing the accent character.
  5. Save changes.

Typing Characters

  1. Hold down your chosen compose key.
  2. Type the accent character. Here is a small list:

    ': á

    `: à

    :: ä

    ~: ã

    ^: â

  3. Release the compose and accent key first, then type the letter you'd like to apply the accent to.

With charmap

  1. Launch charmap via Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Charmap
  2. Highlight specific characters to see the keystrokes to make them. They are made by holding left alt and selecting the appropriate keys on the number pad.