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OS X lets me type special characters directly on the keyboard by holding the Option. For example: — is an em dash, “ and ” are curvy quotes, etc.

Is there a good cheat sheet listing all these keys somewhere? I tend to find myself holding option and running my hands up and down the keyboard looking for a specific character.

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@AndrewU. Neither of those seems to have anything to do with Special Charcters, just menu shortcuts. – Tom Gewecke Feb 6 at 15:52
up vote 6 down vote accepted

In the "Input menu" in the menu bar (to switch on System Preferences -> Language and Text -> Show Input method in menu bar.. Make sure Keyboard and Character Viewer in Select Input Methods to use is selected)

  1. Enable

  2. Where to find

  3. without alt

  4. with alt

And you have your cheat sheet.

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Does not exist in 10.10. – jameshfisher Oct 31 '14 at 17:57
@jameshfisher that is unfortunate. Is there an alternate way to access it? – Nivas Nov 3 '14 at 20:52
It does exist, it's just moved. System Preferences > Keyboard > Input Sources. Specify showing the character viewer in the first tab (Keyboard > Keyboard). – samh Feb 6 at 11:52

There is indeed some software which will help you remind shortcuts.
You will find a list of official shorcuts here at

To learn shortcuts, I find Eve the most appealing. Everytime you are using your mouse to execute a command or action, Eve will remind you of the shortcut which you can use for the next time. Eve supports Mavericks, Lion and Mountain Lion.

Their are two more apps which are approaching an another attempt: CheatSheet and KeyCue.
They are giving you an instant overview of all shortcuts. Hold the cmd key for a couple of seconds, and a window will pop up with a cheat sheet. While CheatSheet is free, KeyCue costs $19.99

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seconding Eve, it works well. CheatSheet is also a solid recommendation. – nthonygreen Feb 17 '14 at 12:35
I would recommend CheatSheet as well. – Joe Casadonte Feb 17 '14 at 16:32
Do any of these have anything to do with Special Characters? The question is about that, not about shortcuts for menu actions. – Tom Gewecke Feb 6 at 13:12
@TomGewecke The original question is in the sidebar on the right under "linked"… I think the duplicate merge was a wrong decision. – napcae Feb 6 at 16:51
@napcae Thanks! I have flagged both questions and recommended this answer be moved back where it belongs. – Tom Gewecke Feb 6 at 18:56

Apple moved things around. Starting with MacOS X 10.9 Mavericks you must go the the "Keyboard" preference pane, then to "Input Sources" and there you can activate "Show Input menu in menu bar".

original answer from 2010-10-01:

In the preference pane "International" under "Input Menu" activate "Character Palette" and "Keyboard Viewer".

You will then have access to the "Keyboard Viewer" in the menu bar.

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