OSX Lion Special Characters: A Special Place

After being on Lion for a few weeks now, most of the things that changed feel normal again and it didn’t take long to get used to them. In the past I have been using the symbols for Alt- and Cmd-Keys quite frequently, mostly for tweets with keyboard shortcuts and other tips and tricks for OSX. There’s also some other cool stuff in there, which can come in handy once in a while. Previously those symbols were easily found in the Special Characters palette, reachable from (almost) every applications Edit menu. In Lion it actually took me quite a few attempts to finally figure it out where they went, since it wasn't too obvious.

The Special Characters palette in Lion has changed to show emojis by default and the list of different symbols in the sidebar also shows a few others. Clicking on the gear icon in the top left corner, you can change the preview size of the icons and clear recently used characters.

At the top of the menu you find “Customize List…”. I did never bother what the customize button did, since I didn’t want to customize, but just find the missing characters, which I suspected to have moved somewhere else, outside the Special Characters palette. One assumption was that they might have moved onto some of the keys, reachable via the little pop up menu when holding down a key, as used for letters like “é” or “ä”.

Finally, at some point I was then curious enough to find out what can be customized and clicked on that entry. By doing this I found out, that customizing the list lets you add all different kinds of additional symbol lists to the sidebar, to make them show up as default. Of course, the Technical Symbols” are one of those available.

I was a little bit surprised, that it took me that long to “try” to customize this list. Usually I’m rather curious and explore things like this. In this case, I guess I just didn’t expect too much of the palette…

Usually Apple’s Interfaces are very easy to use and even for novice users easy to handle. The OS has been getting easier and more straight forward from version to version – at least for most of it – but in this case it seems to have become a bit more challenging. I have been using Macs since almost 14 years now and know most of the OS inside out, but I was surprised to find myself looking for this for so long. I wonder how easy or difficult this might be to find for somebody who hasn’t been on a Mac for a long time…