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How to access extended characters like the degree symbol on iPhone and Mac

An Apple keyboard

Your physical or digital keyboards present a limited number of character options on the surface. However, there are a few ways to access accented letters, special characters, and more on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

The standard iOS keyboard gives you quick access to upper-case and lower-case letters, the standard numbers, punctuation marks, and characters. There is, of course, a plethora of other characters out there. You can choose from letters with umlauts to an upside-down question mark.

You might have discovered the hidden special characters accidentally. If not, here's how to access them on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

How to access extended characters on iPhone & iPad

Getting to extended characters is pretty simple on the iPhone or iPad.

  • Open the keyboard in Messages, Notes, or another app.
  • Press and hold on a specific key.
  • If there are extended characters, you'll see a popup with a list of options
  • To select a special character, keep your finger pressed down and swipe over to them.
  • Lift up when you want to type the extended character

Not every key has extended characters attached to it, and different keys have different unique options.

Extended characters on an iPhone
Extended characters on an iPhone

Letters will generally have diacritical marks or those accent marks on top of certain letters. They could include the umlaut in German or the tilde in Spanish.

There are definitely some valuable options to know, however.

  • If you need a degree sign for describing the temperature, just press and hold on 0 (zero).
  • Spanish punctuation can be accessed by pressing and holding on the exclamation point or question mark
  • For the writers out there, you can get to an em dash or bullet point by pressing and holding on the dash

How to access extended characters on macOS

Typing on a Mac largely comes down to your physical keyboard. Apple portables will have a built-in keyboard, but desktops can be paired with a keyboard of any language — including those with special characters baked in.

However, if you find yourself needing to type a special character on Mac, getting to them is a similar process.

The extended character viewer on Mac
The extended character viewer on Mac
  • Open a text editing program.
  • Tap and hold on a key
  • You'll see a menu pop up with any special characters attached to that key
  • From here, you'll see numbers below each extended character. While holding down the key, press the number to type the associated character
  • Alternatively, you can also use the arrow keys to cycle through each special character and hit the Space bar to select one


There's also another genre of "special character" on macOS: emoji. Unlike on mobile devices like iPhones and iPads, the Mac doesn't have an obvious way to type emoji characters in web browsers or non-Apple apps.

You can type emojis with this keyboard shortcut
You can type emojis with this keyboard shortcut

However, there's a shortcut to bring up the emoji window. Just press Control + Command + Space Bar and you'll see the emoji character viewing.

The character viewer is more useful than simply offering easy access to emoji for texting editing apps.

By clicking on the double arrow on the right side of the character viewer, you can access other non-emoji special characters. Options include shapes, pictographs, bullets and stars, and technical symbols.

You can get to other symbols and characters in the same menu
You can get to other symbols and characters in the same menu

Quick access

There are also a number of more standard characters that you can quickly type on macOS with the proper keyboard shortcut. These are commonly used or interesting.

  • Shift + Option + 8 types a degree symbol
  • Option + 3 types a pound (British currency) symbol
  • Option + Shift + 2 types a euro symbol
  • Option + 4 types a cent symbol
  • Option + G types a copyright symbol
  • Option + R types a restricted symbol
  • Option + 2 types a trademark
  • Option + V types a checkmark

As an added bonus, you can type an Apple logo on Macs by holding down Shift + Alt + K.