I was wondering if anyone has figured out a way to enable the press-and-hold accent popup in Terminal.app, where it does not work out of the box? Does not have to be press-and-hold, but some way to bring up the popup.

I'm used to the unix-style Compose key, but the accent popup seems like a good substitute, especially given that it should also be possible to configure it to support Greek alphabet (for maths), following the instructions in another question: How to add characters to the press and hold character picker in OS X Lion? . But if it won't work in Terminal.app as well, then I'll have to set up a Compose key as explained here: http://lolengine.net/blog/2012/06/17/compose-key-on-os-x .

  • Thanks for asking this! I actually really like this functionality and didn't realize it was disabled in Terminal until you asked.
    – Vladimir
    Commented Nov 15, 2014 at 16:04

2 Answers 2


This can be done with a bit of hacking. ;)

Before proceeding, you should backup your Terminal’s preferences file:

cp "Library/Preferences/com.apple.Terminal.plist" "Library/Preferences/com.apple.Terminal_OLD.plist"

Check to see if the file was copied successfully:

ls "Library/Preferences/com.apple.Terminal_OLD.plist"

If it prints Library/Preferences/com.apple.Terminal_OLD.plist then you're good to go. Otherwise make sure you typed the first command correctly.

Now for the fun part, you can modify the internal settings of the Terminal by typing:

defaults write com.apple.Terminal "ApplePressAndHoldEnabled" -bool true

Close the Terminal completely by first closing all open Terminal windows and then right clicking the Dock icon and choosing Quit.

Open the Terminal again and smile :)

Let me know if this doesn't work on your system.

  • @Thom Awesome! :)
    – Vladimir
    Commented Nov 15, 2014 at 16:01
  • Is there any way to make this work in iTerm2 as well? Would appreciate this very much. Commented Jan 28, 2022 at 11:01
  • Hi @NickPodratz, hmm good question. If you haven't already, you should open your own question for this since iTerm2 wouldn't use the same preferences as the default Mac Terminal.
    – Vladimir
    Commented May 28, 2023 at 3:14

You can do something similar by using the accent codes. Basically all you have to do is press Option + e then release and press the letter you want the accent to be on.

I got the information from this site. Check it out, they give some other examples and more cool shortcuts too.


EDIT: This only works on the UK/US keyboard layout (and maybe a few others). Please see the new answer for a better solution.

I'm still keeping this answer in case someone doesn't have access to the .plist's on their computer.

  • Thanks for the tip. It however only works with UK/US layouts out of the box. On the Finnish layout, Option+E for one is the euro sign €. On many European layouts, accents are produced by dead keys which I absolutely h_a_t_e. So I have disabled the dead keys. But I don't want to use a UK layout or go through the trouble of creating a new layout enabling accent codes on other base keyboard layout -- possibly having to figure out how to actually do it, not sure if Ukulele can do it -- since they are suboptimal compared to the more versatile Compose key or the accent menu.
    – user99586
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 10:09
  • In fact, to find the right balance between European layouts and the UK layout (different from the US layout by having one extra key between left shift and Z, and having the European tall enter key), which is better for programming, I have mapped the characters []{}()\<|> to Option-IOHJKLSDF, taking away a lot of Option-combinations.
    – user99586
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 10:12
  • @Thom Ah, I see. I have another idea that might work, but I need to try some things first. I'll let you know if I figure it out. Good luck!
    – Vladimir
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 23:33
  • @Thom Figured it out :) See my other answer. Peace!
    – Vladimir
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 1:16

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