In most Mac applications I can hold down a key on the keyboard and get a popup to select the special character I need, such as the French accented vowels etc.

enter image description here

Unfortunately when I hold down a key in OpenOffice, it seems to repeat the key.enter image description here

Is there a way to have OpenOffice offer me the normal MacOs special key selection? If not, what is the way to get all the special characters from a qwerty keyboard?

I found the following dialog, but the dialog is blocking. I.e., when I bring it up, I cannot type anything in the OO window. So I can just leave it up and click on the proper character when I need it.

enter image description here

I am using OpenOffice: AOO417m1(Build:9800) - Rev. 46059c9192 2019-09-05 10:18:25 (Thu, 05 Sep 2019) - Darwin x86_64 on macOS Catalina Version 10.15.3 (19D76)

In the meantime I found the following very obscure non-obvious key combinations which seem to work, even though the graphic itself is also confusing. enter image description here

Pressing Option (or Alt) e followed e gives the é, Alt-i e gives ê, and Alt-` e gives è. I really wonder who came up with these.


2 Answers 2


In case you are unable to somehow enable the feature you are looking for inside OpenOffice, you can use macOS's Character Viewer or the combining characters (diacritical marks), which you can get with dead keys, to get accented characters. A regular (keyboard) key that gives a combining character when pressed along with a modifier key such as the Alt ⌥ or Shift ⇧ key is called a dead key.

The keyboard shortcut for the Character Viewer (Kntrl ⌃+Command ⌘+Space ␣) does not seem to work inside OpenOffice's macOS version but, when enabled, you can access it by clicking on the Input menu to the right of the menu bar at the top of your screen. You can enable the viewer via System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Show Keyboard & Emoji Viewers.

To get an accented character using a combining character instead, first put down a combining character such as ` ' " ~ ^ and, quickly after that, the letter to be modified. For example, putting down the combining character ~ and the character a right after that would give you ã. You may have to press the Alt ⌥ or Shift ⇧ key along with one of the regular keys on your keyboard designated as a dead key to get a certain combining character depending on how your keyboard is configured.

The dead key yielding a certain combining character may be different than the key or key combination you press for a similar-looking punctuation mark. Because dead keys differ among different keyboard configurations (US and non-US QWERTY), you might either use the Keyboard Viewer or do some trial and error, i.e. press the Alt ⌥ or Shift ⇧ key and each one of the regular keys on your keyboard at the same time, to discover all the key combinations with the dead keys on your keyboard.

To find the key combinations through the Keyboard Viewer rather than trial&error, you should first enable the Keyboard Viewer via System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Show Keyboard & Emoji Viewers (same sequence as the Character Viewer). Then open the Keyboard Viewer from the Input menu to the right of the menu bar at the top of your screen (similar to the Character Viewer again). Once the Keyboard Viewer is opened, press and hold the Alt ⌥ or Shift ⇧ key and the dead keys are keys highlighted in orange. To utilize a designated key as a dead key in OpenOffice and elsewhere, you need to press the dead key along with whichever key (Alt ⌥ or Shift ⇧) you used to expose it in the Keyboard Viewer.

  • Does pressing ~ and a right after really give ã on your machine? That only happens when you have a special layout active, US International PC. For anyone with standard US qwerty, the option key is essential, and with the option key it is not the punctuation marks but letter characters that you type to get accents, namely e, u, I, n. Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 17:27
  • @TomGewecke My keyboard layout is not US International but a non-English QWERTY keyboard. The same key combinations that give me some of these punctuation marks also give me the combining characters (diacritical marks) in some cases. I mentioned the user may also need the option key or shift key as I figured access to the combining characters may depend on the keyboard configuration but I was not sure how exactly this worked differently, if any, in other keyboard configurations. Thx for pointing out.
    – Alper
    Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 17:51
  • @TomGewecke, no pressing ~ and a immediately after just enter the two characters. Both in the shell and also in OpenOffice. I didn't understand your suggestion about the Option key. Are you suggesting to type ` followed by Option-e to get the back-accented e? That doesn't work. Maybe I misunderstood your suggestion.
    – Jim Newton
    Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 13:09
  • @TomGewecke, which keyboard do I have. In fact I have two different keyboards. One built into my MacBook, which is qwerty English international, but I also have a plugged-in usb keyboard which I believe is a qwerty US.
    – Jim Newton
    Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 13:11
  • "To use a combining character, first put down a combining character such as ` ' " ~ ^ and, quickly after that, the letter to be modified." — This functionality is only provided by specific keyboard layouts (see Keyboard preferences), such as US International and British International. Such keys are called "dead keys". On a standard Mac layout such as US, British, or British PC, one can achieve the same effect by pressing e.g. Alt+~, after which a ~ character will appear with a dotted underline. Pressing any legal character then produces the corresponding character with a tilde.
    – Jivan Pal
    Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 16:43

I think OpenOffice does not support the popup accent menu. But you should certainly be able use all the normal option key shortcuts and the Character Viewer and Keyboard Viewer.

  • Thanks @Tom, this was a good suggestion, albeit obscure (not your fault of course). I've updated the question to contain this new information.
    – Jim Newton
    Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 13:19

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .