Does anyone know how to make the character picker appear more quickly?

I use it enough now in my German language studies that it has become second nature for the critical marks and much faster than using the alt+keypress shortcuts.

Only problem is that it's so second nature that sometimes it doesn't pop up quickly enough so I end up typing the character and the number shortcut sometimes (IE u2 instead of ü). Anyone know how to make it appear with less delay? Ideally, I'd love if I could just hold the character and press the number but it appears that OSX insists on waiting for the menu to pop up.

  • 1
    I don't know how to shorten the timer, my experience is the opposite - using the option/alt keys is much faster. I can get ü by pressing option+u then u alone to achieve the same character with no perceptible delay.
    – bmike
    Aug 23, 2013 at 14:58
  • Not at a Mac, but you can have fun poking about in /System/Library/Input Methods/PressAndHold.app/ for a PLIST to edit...
    – stuffe
    Aug 23, 2013 at 15:15
  • 1
    You could try defining the text substitution u2 = ü so it works either way. Aug 23, 2013 at 16:45

5 Answers 5


The "Character Accent Menu" settings can be adjusted under:

System preferences -> Keyboard -> Delay Until Repeat

If you reduce this time, it's the fastest way to insert any accents in my experience. Setting the initial key repeat rate is the same as setting the time for the character accent menu to appear. With this solution, there is no need to change to international keyboards etc (see the other answers). see here.

If you set it to the minimum value, the delay will be 15 ms, which should be quite fast. However, there seems to be an actual delay of about 300 ms until the menu appears (maybe displaying the menu takes a while? Don't know).

Setting the delay until the character accent menu is shown

There's people using scripts to set the delay from 15 to 1 ms, but I'm not sure whether this helps: see here: github.com/mathiasbynens/dotfiles/blob/master/.macos, the relevant parameter is InitialKeyRepeat


For completely other reasons I installed a keyboard remapping program called KeyRemap4MacBook and it solved my problem here. There is a tab called 'key repeat' for such customization. I had a hunch suddenly that since the Character Picker replaced repeating keys that maybe it would work. And it did.

Install the software and change the 'delay until repeat' option under that tab. Character Picker letter entry very nearly keeps up with the rest of my typing now.


Just select the 'US international keyboard (pc)'. You can then enter accented characters the 'windows way'. So, if you want an é, just press ' and then e an ë is doen with " and e and so on. This is by far the fastest way.



Sorry for not reading the question carefully. Judging from what you want to achieve, I can only come up with a way to use TextExpander. Basically, you need to create an abbreviation for each pair of accented character.

For example,

  • a1 becomes à
  • a2 becomes á
  • a3 becomes â

Then you can just type a1lpha which it‘ll replace the first typed a1 with à. You also need to make sure the abbreviations are expanded everywhere. The default setting only expand when the abbreviations comes after space.

Previous Answer: I’ve removed the summary, but I’ll keep the link alive. You can read more from the source.

  • Nice resume, also it should be mentioned that this only works with the right keyboard layout, such as U.S. Extended or International and some shortcuts change depending on it. (US Extended uses option+6 for ˆ for example) Aug 25, 2013 at 9:48

In OS/X, all languages have "instant" ways of entering the characters in that language without doing a press-and-hold, which does add an annoying amount of time it takes to type letters with diacriticals.

You just have to remember to set the right keyboard. If you don't see a small flag in the menu bar, open the Systems Preferences app, choose Keyboard, then make sure the "Show keyboard..." checkbox is checked. Under that same dialog, the "Input Sources" allows you to add new languages.

Once you do this, that keyboard will appear under that icon in the menu bar, and you can then select that keyboard anytime you want.

Then, for example, to instantly type an accented A in Spanish for example, you just type a single quote followed by "a", which you can do as quickly as you can type.

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