After seeing our tip on how to show the degree symbol on the iPhone, a reader recently asked about how to use the degree symbol in OS X. Thankfully, typing a degree symbol on your Mac in OS X is just as easy as iOS, letting you appropriately express both mathematics and the increasingly erratic weather.
There are two ways to type a degree symbol in OS X, and they’re both system-level functions, meaning that they’ll work in any application on your Mac at virtually any time (with some exceptions for secure text entry fields). But don’t worry, all of the most common applications in which you’d want to type a degree symbol are supported, including Web browsers, OS X Messages, Skype, Mail, and even journaling apps like the popular Day One.
Degree Symbol from the Special Characters Menu
You can insert a degree symbol (among many other symbols) by using the Special Characters menu (now called the Emoji & Symbols menu in OS X Yosemite). To access it, position your cursor where you’d like to insert the degree symbol and then go to Edit > Special Characters (or Edit > Emoji & Symbols) in the Menu Bar. Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut Control-Command-Space.
A new window will appear displaying a range of special characters, symbols, and, for Yosemite, Emoji. Instead of manually browsing the hundreds of available symbols, just type “degree” into the search box to display the available degree symbols. As seen in the screenshot above (based on OS X Yosemite 10.10.2), you have a choice of three degree symbol options: one each for degrees Fahrenheit and Celsius, and a plain degree symbol. Just double-click your desired symbol to insert it at the current location of your mouse or trackpad cursor. Frequently-used symbols and characters will appear beneath the search box, saving you a bit of time in the future.
Degree Symbol Keyboard Shortcut
The Special Characters menu described above gives you hundreds of useful symbols, characters, and emoji from which to choose, but if you just need a plain degree symbol, it’s not your fastest option. Instead, let’s use a keyboard shortcut.
While typing, move your cursor to the location at which you want to insert a degree symbol. Then, press one of the following keyboard shortcuts:
Option-K: inserts a small degree symbol (i.e., 72˚)
Shift-Option-8: inserts a slightly larger degree symbol (i.e., 72°)
We’re not sure if there’s any meaningful difference between the large and small degree symbols when used in meteorological or mathematical contexts, but using either will likely get your point across. Of note, when using the Special Characters menu approach described in the section above, the larger degree symbol is inserted.
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