While writing a recent tip on keyboard mapping in OS X, I needed to type the Command symbol (⌘). Absent the use of more advanced methods, I normally head to the Emoji & Symbols window (formerly known as Special Characters and accessible via Edit > Emoji & Symbols or Control-Command-Space) to find and insert characters such as Command (⌘), Option (⌥), or Eject (⏏). I was working with a fresh install of OS X, however, and when I reached the Emoji & Symbols window, the Command symbol was nowhere to be found. After a few minutes of poking around, it appeared that Apple no longer displays these system-related symbols in the Emoji & Symbols window by default. But don’t fret! You can get your system-related symbols back by simply turning them on again. Here’s how.
To access symbols such as Command (⌘), Option (⌥), Shift (⇧), and Control (⌃) — what Apple refers to as “Technical Symbols” — you first need to open the Emoji & Symbols window. To do so, launch just about any app that offers text input, such as Text Edit, Pages, or Safari.
With the app open, head to Edit > Emoji & Symbols or use the keyboard shortcut Control-Command-Space. You’ll see a new window appear with a variety of symbols divided into categories such as Emoji, Arrows, Currency, and Math. You can browse each category by clicking on it in the list on the left side of the window, or you can search all categories via the search box in the upper-right portion of the window.
By default, current versions of OS X display ten categories of symbols, but there are several additional hidden categories, including the “Technical Symbols” category we’re looking for. To enable these hidden categories, click the small gear icon in the upper-left of the Emoji & Symbols window and select Customize List.
A new menu will slide down from the top of the window revealing dozens of additional symbol categories. Scroll down until you see Technical Symbols and check its box to add it to your Emojis & Symbols list. Click Done when ready and you’ll now see the Technical Symbols category on the left side of the window.
With Technical Symbols enabled, you can now easily access common system-related symbols like those mentioned above, as well as dozens of additional symbols.
If the default OS X symbols aren’t enough, you can also head back to the Customize List option to browse and enable even more symbol categories, such as musical notation symbols, code tables, and language-specific characters.
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