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I'm looking for one of those +? shortcuts to type a minus sign (−) from the keyboard, without touching the mouse.

I'm looking for the minus sign (−). It should have the same width as a plus sign (+), and its Unicode code point is 8722 (x2212 in hexadecimal).

What I'm not looking for:

  • The hyphen minus (-), already on the keyboard, is not the typographically correct symbol for subtraction.
  • The em dash (—, ++-) is used to signify a break in thought and is far too wide to be confused for a minus sign.
  • The en dash (–, +-) is used for ranges of values or relationships and connections and shouldn't be used in place of a minus sign.
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3  
Does "Unicode hex input" as described here (apple.stackexchange.com/a/4077/1227) help? (didn't know there were so many minus signs :) –  LudoMC Feb 6 '12 at 17:15
    
Why, yes it does. =) –  Christopher James Calo Feb 8 '12 at 5:10
    
I didn't post as an answer as I didn't know how to switch the input method with keyboard only as jan.h explained below. –  LudoMC Feb 10 '12 at 17:56
3  
My god... I feel like I've been using the wrong characters my whole life. –  Mike Weller Nov 21 '12 at 16:46
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5 Answers 5

There's a way of entering Unicode values on the Mac: go to System Preferences, then Language & Text. In the Input Sources tab, scroll to Unicode Hex Input, check it.

Select Unicode Hex Input from the list of Input Sources in the Language & Text preference pane.

Then if you switch to Unicode Hex Input in the Mac menu bar, you can press
+2212 for the minus sign. Here's what the input switcher looks like:

Input switcher in the Mac menu bar.

If you want to switch between your input and hex input via keyboard, you have to click "Keyboard Shortcuts..." in the same window, disable "Show Spotlight Window" in the Spotlight section, and maybe activate "Select next source in Input Menu". ++space will then swap input language. (You can check this in the menu bar.)

(Alternatively, there's the low-mouse-use option via Special Characters:
Go to Edit > Special Characters...; in there, select the Unicode tab, and Code tables (or however it's called in English) at the top.
Next, scroll down the list until you see 00002200 in the Unicode column. Click it. Down below, look for the row that begins with 2210, and it should be the 3rd char.)

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I would suggest a language-switch keyboard shortcut that doesn't interfere with spotlight. I use alt+cmd+L personally. –  Mike Weller Nov 22 '12 at 10:33
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If you need to do this a lot, you might get ukelele and use it to create your own keyboard layout. That's what I did, and now I can type all kinds of mathematical symbols with ease, such as lots of integral signs (∫, ∬, ∭, ∮), ∅, ∇, ∀, ∃, ∑, ∏, ⊂, ⊆, ⊃, ⊇, not to mention arrows: →, ←, ↔, ↓, ↑ and so on. (However, you probably don't want my keyboard layout, as it is based on the Norwegian keyboard.) I admit it took me a while to put it together, but I feel it was worth the effort. Your mileage may vary, however.

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Norwegian keyboard layouts are the best ;) –  Emil Feb 17 '13 at 17:17
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One option would be to create ~/Library/KeyBindings/ and save an old-style property list like this as DefaultKeyBinding.dict:

{
    "~M" = (insertText:, "−"); // opt-shift-m
}
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up vote 1 down vote accepted

It's not free, and you have to use the mouse briefly, but the fastest way to do this is with an app named Characters from the Mac App Store for $2.99. You click the icon in the Mac menu bar, search for a character, and use the arrows and Enter to copy it to the clipboard.

Screenshot of the Characters app for Mac

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In word, you can create a new shortcut:

  1. Click Insert --> Symbol --> Advanced Symbol. That will open the Symbol browser.
  2. In the lower left side, click the "Autocorrect" button, which will open the autocorrect window.
  3. Under "Math Autocorrect" tab, activate "Use Math AutoCorrect rules outside of math regions"
  4. In the "Replace" box, type the code you want to use. (I have it set to "-")
  5. In the "With" box, enter the "minus" symbol. I had to "cut-and-paste" it from a text document.
  6. Click OK.

Done. Next time you type - it will be replaced by the minus sign.

Hope it helps!

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This can also be done automagically in all OS X apps via System Prefrences -> Language & Text -> Text under "symbol and text substitution" :) –  Emil Feb 17 '13 at 17:19
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