When typing in feet and inches, the prime and double prime symbols are used, e.g. 5′ 5″. How do I type these characters?

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    the ` is officially known as a grave accent – daviesgeek Jul 1 '12 at 2:05
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    Really? I thought ' and " were feet and inches. – Timothy Mueller-Harder Jul 1 '12 at 2:06
  • (With ‘’ and “” for quotes.) – Timothy Mueller-Harder Jul 1 '12 at 2:06
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    @davisgeek I think your comment must have been intended for some other question? – Tom Gewecke Jul 1 '12 at 13:10
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    @timothymh ' and " are "straight" or ascii quotes, the others you mention are "curly". Wikipedia entries for feet and inches explain that prime/double prime is the most correct symbol for these. – Tom Gewecke Jul 1 '12 at 13:15

Using the Character Viewer, search for "Prime". You can then click "Add to Favorites" for more convenient access.

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In Mavericks, the following shortcut is helpful to bring up the character viewer:

Control + Command + Spacebar

Click the button in the top right corner to switch between the "Characters" window and "Character Viewer". Note: to get that button or the search bar to appear, you'll need to scroll up.

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    Actually, you don’t need to scroll up. Typing in the character viewer bring up the search field automatically. – Édouard Apr 3 '14 at 10:38
  • The character viewer is definitely the way to go! On my machine it's Command + Option + T though. – mabartibin Aug 1 '14 at 10:05

I don't know if it's the easiest way, but here's one way:

In the "International" system preferences, turn on the keyboard layout called "Unicode Hex Input". When you need to type a prime, type commandspace to switch to this keyboard layout, and then hold down option and type 2 0 3 2. For double prime, it's 2 0 3 3.

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  • 1
    The character viewer could help with this as well. – ephsmith Jul 1 '12 at 4:32

Character Palette

´ (prime): 2032

˝ (double-prime): 2033

(thanks to Paul Berkowitz)

Unicode Hex Input Keyboard

´ (prime): option 2 0 3 2

˝ (double-prime): option 2 0 3 3

(thanks to @Ken's answer)

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    The keyboard shortcuts are wrong. These give you the acute accent and the double acute accent (00B4,02DD) and not prime and double prime. – Tom Gewecke Mar 14 '13 at 20:55
  • @TomGewecke care to provide the correct answer? – Noel Mar 15 '13 at 19:53
  • It's already here in the answer provided by Ken and the comment there. There isn't any keyboard shortcut, you have to use the Unicode Hex layout or Character Viewer. – Tom Gewecke Mar 16 '13 at 0:04
  • @TomGewecke ah, I see. It was unclear which part was incorrect. Also, it's nice to have a single consolidated correct answer. – Noel Mar 18 '13 at 5:07
  • Yes, good idea. – Tom Gewecke Mar 18 '13 at 5:11

Modify the Press & Hold keys

For entering special characters such as the primes, I prefer the Press & Hold method since it's easy to remember and really quick if you shorten the Press & Hold time.

  1. Navigate to System/Library/Input Methods/PressAndHold.app/Contents/Resources/.

  2. Backup the Keyboard-en.plist file.

  3. Append the following to the Keyboard-en.plist file (before the closing </dict></plist>).

        <string>t ′ ″ ‴</string>
        <string>t ′ ″ ‴</string>

Feel free to change the Roman-Accent-t to any character you wish, providing it does not already have Press & Hold keys assigned.

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On my new MacBook Air 2013 running Mountain Lion…

Press ⌥ alt/option + E to get single prime. ´

Press ⇧ shift + ⌥ alt/option and G to get double prime. ˝

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    These are not the prime characters but the acute accent and the double accute accent. – Tom Gewecke Apr 3 '14 at 0:29
  • Opt-e PRIME ´
  • Opt-j DOUBLE PRIME ˝
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  • I tried it and it really works. – Richard A. Solomon Apr 2 '14 at 23:33
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    Sorry, no, they may look the same to you, but these are not the right characters. option-e produces the acute accent, option-j (US Extended layout) produces double accute accent. – Tom Gewecke Apr 3 '14 at 0:28

Using the character palate is definitely the way forward, but instead of typing "prime" in the search box, which presented me with accented apostrophes, I found typing "apostrophe" gave me exactly what I needed.

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  • 2
    You can't get the prime symbol by typing apostrophe, so why are you posting this as an answer to a question about how to get the prime symbol? What did you use your apostrophe for? – Tom Gewecke Nov 29 '13 at 13:00

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