[OS X Emacs] How to enter accented characters on US keyboard?

xah lee xahlee at gmail.com
Wed Apr 1 14:15:18 EDT 2009

on this issue, basically one can't have a solution that satisfy all.
There is the cmd key and opt key.
Some likes to use cmd by mac convention like copy, paste, open, save etc.
Others like to use it for meta. Some like to use Opt by mac convention of
inserting foreign chars, others like that for meta. Basically, there are
these functionalities: mac convention of shortcut, input foreign chars,
emacs meta. While, there are only 2 mod keys: the cmd and opt. So, unless
you bring in Cntrl, or start combining mod keys (e.g. Cmd+Opt+key), or start
doing key sequences (e.g. Cmd+key followed by Opt+key)... but again there
are more bewildering personal preferences.

btw, if you need to use foreign chars a lot, and you are using emacs, you
don't really need to use OS X's Opt way, because you can easily customize
emacs to have any shortcut you want to type any unicode char. In a sense,
map your keyboard into a foreign char layout, of only chars that interest to

For example, for me, my Cmd is Meta, my opt is for typing matching pairs and
also much unicode math chars.

Here's some doc might be of help:

• How to Define Keyboard Shortcuts in Emacs

note the bottom, where you can set the Opt to Hyper. Then, you can just use
emacs to map arbitrary hype+key combo to arbitrary unicode chars.

Also, if the preset foreign chars thru Opt in OS X is not what you liked,
you can also customize it, without anything to do with emacs. For example, i
often need to type α, β, λ, →, ⇒ etc, which isn't available under OS X's Opt

• How To Create Your Own Keybinding In Mac Os X

∑ http://xahlee.org/
On Wed, Apr 1, 2009 at 8:45 AM, Carsten Bormann <cabo at tzi.org> wrote:

> On Apr 1, 2009, at 17:02, Jean-Christophe Helary wrote:
>  In classic Mac software there are "dead keys" for that.
>>> OPTION n  --  appears to do nothing
>>> but the next key you press, probably another n will acquire an accent
>>> mark above it as in canon -> cañon which might not survive this email.
>>> OPTION e and some others are available.
>> http://mac4translators.blogspot.com/search/label/accented%20letters
> The problem is that Aquamacs hijacks the option key and uses it for meta.
> For those of us who regularly use the non-ASCII characters, that is a
> problem.
> It is easy to fix:
>        (setq mac-option-modifier nil)
> Now, of course, you need a different key to use as meta key.
> The obvious choice is the command key:
>        (setq mac-command-modifier 'meta)
> But then none of the nice Mac-Emulation key combinations (CMD-C for copy
> etc.) work.
> Clumsy workaround for laptop users:
>    (setq mac-function-modifier 'alt) ;;; can't use this with Leopard and
> CarbonEmacs
> This gives the fn key the same meaning normally occupied by the CMD key, so
> now you can fn-C for copy etc.
> Do I like any of this?  No.
> But I haven't found a better way to run Emacs on a Mac.
> Gruesse, Carsten
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∑ http://xahlee.org/
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