Call up a handy keyboard assistant on the Apple Mac

Typing on the Apple MacBook, one of the thinnest computers

Where is the hash (#) key on the Apple Mac? Do you know how to type as tilde (~)? What can you do when there isn’t a key for the symbol you want? Get keyboard assistance.

The keyboard on the MacBook does not have every possible key and some have simply been left out. This is true of all laptop computers to a certain extent and the smaller the laptop, the few keys it has. Some keys just have to go to keep the space requirement down.

Holding down certain special keys modifies the character that is entered when a key is pressed and the most obvious of these is the Shift key. It obviously makes capitals out of letters, but also there are alternative characters on the number keys.

It is not the only key that modifies the keyboard and Option affects every key on the keyboard and causes it to output a different symbol. The problem is that it is hard to remember which keys produce which characters.

Option+3 to enter a hash is just about the only one I can remember, so when I needed a tilde the other day I ended up pressing nearly every key on the keyboard till I found it, then deleting all the wrong characters.

The solution to the problem of remember which keys do what, is to add the Keyboard Viewer to the menu bar.

1 System Preferences

Click the Apple logo in the menu bar and then select System Preferences on the menu. When System Preferences opens, click the Keyboard icon.

System Preferences in OS X on the Apple Mac

2 Show the keyboard

Select the keyboard tab at the top and down near the bottom, tick Show Keyboard, Emoji & Symbol Viewers in the menu bar.

The Keyboard option in System Preferences in OS X on the Apple Mac

3 Use the menu bar

Whenever you need a special character that is not on the Mac’s keyboard, click the icon in the menu bar and select Show Keyboard Viewer.

4 Press a key

The keyboard Viewer appears and if you press Shift, Ctrl, Option and Command, it shows the character you will get if each key is pressed.

Keyboard Viewer in OS X on the Apple Mac
No keys pressed

Keyboard Viewer in OS X on the Apple Mac
Option held down

5 Resize the keyboard

If this virtual keyboard is too large, it can get in the way on a small MacBook screen. The solution is to resize it. It is not as straightforward as you might expect though.

Position the mouse pointer one pixel above the top edge of the keyboard, click and hold the trackpad button (or mouse), then slide up/down on the trackpad with a finger (or use a mouse). The keyboard grows and shrinks.

Keyboard Viewer in OS X on the Apple Mac

Those keyboard images above are actual size. In fact, you can grow the keyboard even bigger - so large it fills the screen. Try it and see.



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