How to Access Extended Characters Like the Degree Symbol on iPhone and Mac

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

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

You may have accidentally discovered the hidden special characters. If not, here’s how to access it on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

How to Access Extended Characters on iPhone and iPad

Accessing extended characters is quite simple on the iPhone or iPad.

  • Open the keyboard in Messages, Notes, or another app.
  • Long press a specific key.
  • If there are extended characters, you will see a popup with a list of options
  • To select a special character, hold your finger down and swipe over it.
  • Raise when you want to type the extended character

Not all keys have extended characters associated with them, and different keys have different unique options.

Extended characters on an iPhone

Letters will usually have diacritical marks or these accent marks above certain letters. They could include the umlaut in German or the tilde in Spanish.

However, there are certainly some interesting options to be aware of.

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

How to Access Extended Characters on macOS

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

However, if you need to type a special character on Mac, accessing it is a similar process.

The Extended Character Viewer on Mac

The Extended Character Viewer on Mac

  • Open a text editing program.
  • Long press a key
  • You will see a context menu with all the special characters attached to this key
  • From there, you’ll see numbers under each extended character. While holding down the key, press the number to enter the associated character
  • Alternatively, you can also use the arrow keys to cycle through each special character and press the spacebar to select one.


There is also another kind of “special character” on macOS: emoji. Unlike mobile devices like iPhones and iPads, the Mac doesn’t have an obvious way to type emoji characters into web browsers or non-Apple apps.

You can type emojis with this keyboard shortcut

You can type emojis with this keyboard shortcut

However, there is a shortcut to display the emoji window. Just press Control + Command + Spacebar and you will see the emoji character display.

The character viewer is more useful than just providing easy access to emoji for SMS 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, pictograms, bullets and stars, and technical symbols.

You can access other symbols and characters in the same menu

You can access other symbols and characters in the same menu

Quick access

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

  • Shift+Option+8 type a degree symbol
  • Variant + 3 type a pound symbol (UK currency)
  • Option+Shift+2 type a euro symbol
  • Variant + 4 type a penny symbol
  • Options + G type a copyright symbol
  • Options + R type a restricted symbol
  • Variant + 2 hit a mark
  • Options + V hit a tick

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

James V. Hayes