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Follow-up tip: also on a Mac, go to System Preferences → Keyboard and check “Show keyboard and emoji viewers in menu bar”. Then, hit the icon just added to the menu bar and select “Show Keyboard Viewer”. With it open, hold down Option, Option+Shift, etc, to live-preview what will be typed.

For symbols not there, hit Control+Command+Space to open the emoji/unicode typer. Hit the icon in the upper right to switch to a view where you can add favorites, like those arrows above.

Some favorite shortcuts of mine besides the dashes:

- Option+; → … (proper ellipsis)

- Option+[ and Option+Shift+[ → “ and ” (admittedly, typing in an editor with smart quotes is better)

- Option+] and Option+Shift+] → ‘ and ’

- Option+= → ≠

- Option+Shift+= → ±

- Option+x → ≈

- Option+, → ≤

- Option+. → ≥

- Option+Shift+8 → ° (degree symbol, don’t confuse with similar characters)

- Option+p → π

I read something related to Perl 6 work that resonated: Unicode opens up a lot more possibilities than we’ve taken advantage of, we just don’t yet have the hardware to make it convenient. Keys labels as screens is a perennial idea; maybe once somebody does a great job of it, we’ll see those Option shortcuts frequently used.

Personally I’m a big fan of the compose key for such matters. (Both OS X and Linux.) The mnemonics I find easier to remember.

• Compose . . → …

• Compose < " and Compose > " → “ and ”

• Compose < ' and Compose > ' → ‘ and ’

• Compose / = → ≠

• Compose + - → ±

• (couldn't figure out ≈)

• Compose < = → ≤

• Compose > = → ≥

• Compose o o → °

• (no compose for π)

~~ → ≈

I’ve customised my Compose key quite a bit.

I added things like:

- Greek characters from Vim’s digraphs, so p star = π, l star = λ, &c. (Looks like WinCompose’s defaults now actually include asterisk-first ones, star p → π, so I might drop my additions.)

- Emoji, :), :D, XD, :/, :S, &c.

- Improved curly quotes, whereby I super-conveniently type curly quotes all the time: ;; → ‘, :: → “, '' → ’, "" → ”. (Look at them on the keyboard to figure out the reasoning. ∷ is available as 2:.)

I contemplated, but didn’t add, Vim’s box drawing digraphs; there are a few collisions, and I only ever use box drawing characters in Vim, so I’ll just use Ctrl+K there.

http://temp.chrismorgan.info/.XCompose is my current .XCompose. I’m using Windows these days, so that’s with WinCompose.

> - Emoji, :), :D, XD, :/, :S, &c.

Aagh! I mean... and so it comes full circle. Does no one remember when "emoticons" were sideways ASCII art? Does no one wonder why entry (8) in a list gets turned into "open paren smiley face with sunglasses?" Kids these days...

Oh, I remember it full well. But even in those comparatively early days when only :-( and :-) had specific Unicode codepoints [HN filters out emoji, imagine the appropriate codepoints yourself], I preferred to use them to :-) and :-(.

Why do I use all the fancy Unicode things? Because they’re there!

~~ doesn't work on OS X ;)

> (no compose for π)

You can create your own compose sequences in ~/.XCompose. I mapped pi to Compose * p, taking the idea from Plan 9: https://9fans.github.io/plan9port/man/man7/keyboard.html

If a particular compose sequence strikes you as sensible and suitable for everyone, you can submit patches upstream as well. I believe the base tables reside in Xorg, and GTK uses these as an upstream source, but I'm not completely sure.

I've did this for vowels with macrons — ā (-a), ō (-o), ū (-u), in particular because they are useful in romanised Japanese.

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