If you want to spell café correctly, how do you get that accent over the e? Or get that tilde over the n when you write niño in Spanish? There are a few ways to do it.
First, holding down the Option key (on the bottom row of your keyboard) gives you common diacritical marks: e=´, i=ˆ, u=¨, n=˜, ~=`. To accent a letter, hold down the Option key, type the character representing that accent mark, then type the letter you want underneath it. For example, Option-i then e makes ê.
If you go to System Preferences > Language & Text > Input Sources and put a checkmark in front of “Keyboard & Character Viewer,” it puts up a little box at the top right of your screen. Click on that new icon in the upper right corner of your screen, and choose “Show Keyboard Viewer,” and a little keyboard will appear.
Hold down the Option key, and you can see all the special characters you get when using that key as a modifier. Try holding down the Shift key, and Shift-Option as well. You’ll see all kinds of characters you can type. The ones highlighted in orange are the ones that follow the tip above.
You have another option as well. In that same System Preferences window, scroll down and put a checkmark in front of US International – PC. Click the keyboard icon in the upper right corner of your screen again, and make sure it’s set to this new keyboard configuration. Now, just like in Windows, you can use these keyboard combos:
For á, é, í, ó, ú: press ‘ and directly after that, the vowel.
For à, è, ì, ò, ù: press ` and directly after that, the vowel. (Note that ` is slightly different slightly different from ‘ … on my keyboard, it is located right of the left-side Shift key.)
For ä, ë, ï, ö, ü: press ” and directly after that, the vowel.
For ã, ñ, õ: press ˜ and directly after that, the letter.