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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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Does "Unicode hex input" as described here ( 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
My god... I feel like I've been using the wrong characters my whole life. – Mike Weller Nov 21 '12 at 16:46

6 Answers 6

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

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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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
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
This question isn't about Microsoft Word. It's about typing a minus sign anywhere in Mac OS X. – Christopher James Calo Nov 19 at 18:46
Just noticed @emil's comment. That would be a better answer. – Christopher James Calo Nov 19 at 18:52

You can set up just a regular autocorrect shortcut for this as well, which I found much simpler.

First, insert a proper minus sign into a Word document somewhere using the "Insert symbol" function. Highlight that minus sign.

Go to "Tools" --> "Autocorrect". The proper minus sign you have highlighted will show up in the "replace with" field on the right; all you have to do now is type whatever shortcut you want to use on the left. I like to use letter combinations that won't show up in other contexts, but are somehow reminiscent of what I actually want to type; I chose "mnsgn" in this case.

Click "add" and then "OK". Now, whenever you type whatever your shortcut is, it will be autocorrected to a minus sign.

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But that is ONLY for MS Word, nothing else. – Tom Gewecke Nov 19 at 18:46

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