I am a German User, but i am using a US Keyboard and the US Extended Keyboard Layout. Sometimes I need to use German Umlauts, and I usually rely on the "press and hold for accented characters" feature of OS X.

However, this is not always available. I cant seem to find a pattern in this behavior. Sometimes I log in, and it works flawlessly, sometimes it doesn't work at all and just repeats the character I press for a long time.

I switched to different keyboard layouts (US, US Extended, US International PC) and different "Preferred Languages" in the "Language and Region" settings.

I also tried the defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool true setting, but also no luck.

I have the same problem on different Macs; at work and at home.

How do I configure this feature correctly?

  • Does the behaviour change between restarts when using the same application? Does it always work in TextEdit? – Graham Miln Jan 16 '14 at 10:35
  • No, even restarting of apps does not help. Once this feature fails, it fails for all the apps, even TextEdit and my browsers. – DaveSliwo Jan 16 '14 at 13:09
  • While this is not a solution to your problem, it might be a reasonable workaround. In the US Extended layout, you can also get umlauts with pressing option-u before the vowel, as well as other accents via option-a, option-e. A possibly complete list is here: symbolcodes.tlt.psu.edu/accents/codemacext.html – Kent Jan 19 '14 at 5:58
  • Do you always have another keyboard layout like German, French, or Spanish on your active list? I have seen reports in another forum that adding this helped some users with similar problems. – Tom Gewecke Mar 5 '14 at 0:04
  • I can report that the problem of press and hold giving accented alternatives/not doing so at random is present for me, on OS 10.9.2 (installed on a newly formatted disk). – user1256923 Mar 7 '14 at 13:56

When it stops working, does ps -ef|grep PressAndHold include a line for /System/Library/Input Methods/PressAndHold.app/Contents/MacOS/PressAndHold? If it doesn't, try to run open -a PressAndHold. Or if it does, killall PressAndHold;open -a PressAndHold might also be worth a shot.

You could also try to delete ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.HIToolbox.plist. Normally defaults read com.apple.HIToolbox should show com.apple.PressAndHold under AppleEnabledInputSources and AppleSelectedInputSources.

  • 1
    Stopped working randomly, PressAndHold was present in my ps listing, had to killall PressAndHold;open -a PressAndHold to get it back. Thanks! – Greg Olsen Jun 1 '15 at 16:24

The option/alt + key combinations should be more reliable once you learn them. For example alt + s types ß and alt + u followed by a vowel types the umlauted vowel äëïöü.

P.S. Thanks for pointing out the press and hold technique that's pretty interesting.


This worked for me. The press and hold had stopped working in all programs. I followed the instructions below and it worked again

A way to make sure it is enabled is: open Terminal, from Applications, Utilities, then in the Terminal window type, exactly,

defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool true

press Enter and finally quit Terminal

The key should now do the accents.

  • This worked for me in addition to the open -a PressAndHold command. Not sure why it had been voted down. – Richard Wеrеzaк May 24 '16 at 7:38
  • For some reason, I had to remove the -g flag in order to get it working on Mojave. defaults write ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool true – fedesismo Jul 11 at 14:03

A few things: I'm on OS 10.9.2 and press and hold is not working for me at the moment. If I type:

defaults read -g

I get:

AppleAntiAliasingThreshold = 4;
AppleAquaColorVariant = 6;
AppleEnableMenuBarTransparency = 0;
AppleLanguages =     (
AppleLocale = "en_GB";
AppleMiniaturizeOnDoubleClick = 0;
AppleUserLanguages = 1;
InitialKeyRepeat = 68;
KeyRepeat = 6;
NSAutomaticDashSubstitutionEnabled = 1;
NSAutomaticQuoteSubstitutionEnabled = 1;
NSAutomaticSpellingCorrectionEnabled = 1;
NSNavPanelFileLastListModeForOpenModeKey = 1;
NSNavPanelFileLastListModeForSaveModeKey = 1;
NSNavPanelFileListModeForOpenMode2 = 1;
NSNavPanelFileListModeForSaveMode2 = 1;
NSNavPanelSidebarKeyForOpen =     (
NSNavPanelSidebarKeyForSave =     (
NSNavRecentPlaces =     (
NSPreferredWebServices =     {
    NSWebServicesProviderWebSearch =         {
        NSDefaultDisplayName = Google;
        NSProviderIdentifier = "com.google.www";
NSTableViewDefaultSizeMode = 1;
NSUserDictionaryReplacementItems =     (
NavPanelFileListModeForOpenMode = 1;
NavPanelFileListModeForSaveMode = 1;
WebAutomaticSpellingCorrectionEnabled = 1;
"com.apple.keyboard.fnState" = 1;
"com.apple.springing.delay" = "0.5";
"com.apple.springing.enabled" = 1;


i.e I am not getting ApplePressAndHoldEnabled in the first place. in ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.HIToolbox.plist I have the correct instances of com.apple.PressAndHold, but I noticed a file /Library/Preferences/com.apple.HIToolbox.plist which does not have com.apple.PressAndHold. One guess is that if com.apple.PressAndHold were to be added there press and hold might work...


For me, it didn't work until I restart the application, which was Pages, in my case.

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