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How To Make Spanish Accents and Punctuation With a Mac

No New Software Necessary


Old Mac computer

Ordenador Macintosh de 1986. (Macintosh computer from 1986.)

Photo by Bruno Cordioli; licensed via Creative Commons.

They say computing is easier with a Mac — and indeed it is when typing Spanish accented letters and punctuation symbols.

Unlike Windows, the Macintosh operating systems do not require you to install a special keyboard configuration to type letters with diacritical marks. The capability for the characters is ready for you from the time you first turn your computer on.

The method for typing the characters isn't intuitive, however, although it's easy to master. The key is that to type a modified letter (such as an é, ü or ñ) you type a special key combination followed by the letter. For example, to type vowels with an acute accent on them (namely the á, é, í, ó and ú) press the Option key and the "e" key at the same time, then release the keys. This tells your computer that the next letter will have the acute accent. So to type á, press the Option key and the "e" at the same time, release those keys, and then type the "a." If you want it capitalized, the process is the same, except press the "a" and the shift key at the same time.

The process is similar for the other special letters. To type the ñ, press the Option and "n" keys at the same time and release them, then press the "n." To type the ü, press the Option and "u" keys at the same time and release them, then press the "u."

To summarize:

  • á — Option + e, a
  • Á — Option + e, Shift + a
  • é — Option + e, e
  • É — Option + e, Shift + e
  • í — Option + e, i
  • Í — Option + e, Shift + i
  • ñ — Option + n, n
  • Ñ — Option + n, Shift + n
  • ó — Option + e, o
  • Ó — Option + e, Shift + o
  • ú — Option + e, u
  • Ú — Option + e, Shift + u
  • ü — Option + u, u
  • Ü — Option + u, Shift + u

To type Spanish punctuation, it necessary to press two or three keys at the same time. Here are the combinations to learn:

  • inverted question mark (¿) — Shift + Option + ?
  • inverted exclamation point (¡) — Option + 1
  • left angle quote («) — Option + \
  • right angle quote (») — Shift + Option + \
  • quotation dash () — Shift + Option + -
Alternative method with the Character Palette: Some versions of the Mac OS also offer an alternate method, known as the Character Palette, which is more cumbersome than the above method but can be used if you forget the key combinations. To open the Character Palette if you have it available, open the Input menu on the top right of the menu bar to find it. Within the Character Palette, select Accented Latin for the characters to display. You can insert the characters in your document by double-clicking on them. In some versions of the Mac OS, the Character Palette may also be available by clicking on the Edit menu of your word-processing or other application and selecting Special Characters.
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