When I'm in an application such as Firefox, Textedit, BBEdit, Pages etc. - virtually any application which provides something like a text entry field -, I find the following feature at work:

When I press a vocal letter (say i for a second or so, a small window pops up where I can choose between various accented versions of this character. In the case of i, the list contains î, ï, í, ī and ì, and typing a number from 1 to 5 selects which of those characters I want to actually enter. When I press an interpunction character (say - or .) and hold it, automatic key repeat starts (--------------........). This is reasonable and handy.

Interestingly, Terminal.app (and also iTerm2.app) behave differntly, in that they always do an automatic key repeat. Pressing and holding the i does give me the aforementined option, but always starts to produce a string of i character: iiiiiiii.

Is there a possibility to enable the terminal applications to react in the same way as those Mac programs using a GUI, when a key is pressed an held for some period? I guess that this behaviour is done inside the keyboard driver, and therefore configurable by the application which requests keyboard entry.

I am aware that I can enter some of these characters using a dead key - for instance typing ´ and i produces í, but there is no way I could use with this approach a ī or a ï (I use the Austrian German input source).

  • Dead keys can be used to make everything if you will activate the input source called ABC Extended. Commented Jan 22 at 12:18
  • @TomGewecke: I'm not talking about dead keys. How would you produce a character such as æ or ō or ïm using dead keys? Basically I just would use the facility which seems to be active in any other application except the two terminal applications (at least I have not found yet another application, where the accented character popup would not appear) in my terminal as well. Commented Jan 22 at 12:36
  • With ABC Extended, æ is option ', ö is option u then o, ī is option a then i. Press and Hold will always have llmited choices compared to dead keys. For full info see sites.psu.edu/symbolcodes/mac/codemacext Commented Jan 22 at 14:47
  • The press and hold feature is not controlled by the keyboard driver, but by system/library/input methods/PressAndHold.app Commented Jan 22 at 14:50
  • @TomGewecke : I didn't mean ö, I meant ō. Option + i together gives me . option + ' just produces a . I guess the differences are related to the keyboard layout: I have a German keyboard and the keyboard settings are "AT" (Austrian). But thanks anyway for the link. My preference for the popup solution is that I don't have to remember key combinations: I see whith once glance what is available and can pick from the list. From your information about the PressAndHold.app, I guess I would have to file a change request for iTerm2... Commented Jan 23 at 10:23


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