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I use the keyboard viewer as a cheat sheet so I can guide myself in the horrible fields of OSX keymaps and I realised that pressing some keys will display a few keys in orange. What does that color indicate?

Orange keys in OS X keyboard viewer

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Those keys in orange are so-called dead keys. It's a key that does not necessarily generate a complete character by itself but may modify the character generated by the key struck immediately after.

The usage of those dead keys in a text editor or in the Terminal is usually indicated by a yellowish background. You may then enter the main character you want to modify to finally get the desired one.

Not all combinations of a dead key and a normal key are used. Typing altn (=~) n will result in a 'ñ'. But altn (=~) t just gives '~t'.

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  • You are right. After you press the dead key the keyboard viewer also shows the modified keys. E.g. pressing ¨ will display ö instead of o in it. Textfields also highlight the entered dead key in orange. – totymedli Apr 6 '15 at 0:12
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The orange represent accent characters to add to the next inputed letter. It is functionally equivalent to accessing OSX’s accent menu - holding down a key and seeing:

enter image description here

For example. So, alternatively, you can type optionu followed byu to add a diaresis to the letter ü

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It means that those symbols overlay themselves onto whatever letter you next. For example, Optionu followed by u would type ü, rather than ¨u.

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