I've recently upgraded my macos from a very old version to Catalina.

In the old days, if I wanted to enter a special character such as a mathematical symbol, I would hit ctrl-CMD-space to bring up the emoji and special characters dialog, and then search for the name of the unicode symbol I wanted.

In Catalina, ctrl-CMD-space brings up a much simplified version of this dialog that looks like this:

enter image description here

The problem is I can't see any way to search this list. Online I can find screenshots of a dialog that looks like similar this but has a search bar at the top. That version also has an icon in the top right that switches to the expanded dialog that I'm used to. But as you can see neither of those exist in the screenshot above, and I don't know how to make them appear.

Is there a way to search for unicode symbols from this dialog, or switch it to the old one, or is there some other convenient way to search for unicode symbols in Catalina? I sometimes need to use obscure mathematical symbols, and it's not really feasible to find them by just scrolling through the list.

1 Answer 1


Uh, I always figure these things out myself immediately after posing the question. Here's the solution - I hope it will be helpful for someone else:

To search for characters, you just press ctrl-CMD-space to bring the dialog up and then start typing. The search bar appears as soon as you type something, along with the button that switches to the "character viewer" window. They will then be there the next time you bring the dialog up as well.

This is actually more convenient than the old dialog, it's just that for some reason they went out of their way to make the feature hard to discover.

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