14 Replies Latest reply: Nov 7, 2013 5:32 PM by RevSchaef
Barry Glasgal Level 1 (25 points)

How do I see fonts in a keyboard layout so I know which key to use to print a non-letter character, like in Wingdings,for example.

Mac mini, OS X Mountain Lion (10.8.3)
  • Kurt Lang Level 8 (36,670 points)

    You can't. It used to work like that way before the first version of OS X. A couple, or few versions back, Apple took that option out. Like Microsoft, they are pushing towards a fully Unicode system. Since all characters in Unicode are in the same place (supposed to be), there's no need to represent the font itself on the keys.


    However, that's no help for a dingbat font, such as Wingdings. You have to open the Character Viewer and then choose among the various symbol options.


    Personally, I think Apple made the Character Viewer completely useless starting in Lion. You used to be able to view all of the characters of ONE font. Not any more. It's now very difficult to navigate.


    Not free, but a great, and actually usable replacement is Ultra Character Map.

  • Barry Glasgal Level 1 (25 points)

    Thanks.  I'm actually using OS 10.8, it wasn't presented as an option, but I susupect that doesn't matter.


    If I understand correctly,  if I want  to use a dingbat font it is just a trial and error of pushing every key with all its modifiers until I happen to hit on the right one.  That's ridiculous.  They have rendered some fonts useless. Does that hold true is MS Office as well?

  • Tom Gewecke Level 9 (77,165 points)

    Barry Glasgal wrote:


    If I understand correctly,  if I want  to use a dingbat font it is just a trial and error of pushing every key with all its modifiers until I happen to hit on the right one. 


    It is best not to use an old dingbat font where the symbols are mapped to Latin so they can be made from the keyboard.  There is no guarantee that anyone will see your dingbat instead of the Latin.  Instead you use the Unicode dingbat fonts supplied with OS X, which you access via the Character Viewer and can only be seen as a dingbat.


    Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 5.52.06 AM.png

  • Barry Glasgal Level 1 (25 points)



    Thanks for your interest.


    Perhaps I wasn't clear in stating my problem.


    What I want to do is to be able to type symbols from my keyboard using any font that has symbols or non-alphabet characters.  You were good enough to show dingbats in your response as an example of what I want to type.  In the past Apple had Key Caps, which allowed you to select a font, and it then showed what each key on the keyboard typed in that font.  That's what I am trying to do; select a font, and see what each key on the keyboard types in that font.


    The Character View shows all the characters in the font but doesn't tell you which key to select to type it.

    Kurt said this was no longer possible but I thought you might have a solution.

  • Tom Gewecke Level 9 (77,165 points)

    Barry Glasgal wrote:


    select a font, and see what each key on the keyboard types in that font.



    In a fully Unicode system, the character which each key types is exactly the same for every font.


    There are some 100,000 Unicode characters, so in a Unicode system most of them cannot be typed from the US keyboard.  Either you need to use Character Viewer or another keyboard layout. 


    If you use a non-Unicode font which lets you type different symbols from the US keyboard, there is no way to have Keyboard Viewer show you that.  But I think there are some apps like PopChar and Ultra Character Map will let you read off the key combos for such fonts.

  • Kurt Lang Level 8 (36,670 points)

    To add to Tom's excellent info. PopChar in its current form is unusable. At least if you're using non Unicode fonts, it is. You cannot in any way make it show you glyphs in a font that do not have Unicode values assigned to them, and that includes many Unicode fonts! As an example, here's Adobe's Caslon Pro Italic from Font Folio 11. It's a Unicode, OpenType font:


    Screen shot 2013-07-11 at 9.09.07 AM.png


    Note the large gap of glyphs with no Unicode value assigned to them between 02C7 and 00A4. None of those will ever appear in PopChar under any setting, so you would have no idea these swash, ligature, dingbat and other glyphs even exist. Ultra Character Map will show all of them.


    This is just one of many, many Unicode fonts which contain glyphs without a Unicode value assigned to them.


    I doubt you'll see a return to a Keyboard Viewer that will show the glyphs of a chosen font, so you'll have to rely on an app like Ultra Character Map, or (ugh!) Font Book so you can see all glyphs in one font.


    Using the Character Viewer isn't a great choice. Yes, you can choose Dingbats to see all dingbats, but that's a concatenation of all dingbat glyphs. As I recall, it doesn't even tell you what font a dingbat is in when you select it. So if you have a half dozen or more such fonts open, you need to have all of them available all the time in order to be sure the one you chose is used in the document. Which means you also have to send every possible font that may include a dingbat you used to the printer to make sure they have it.

  • Tom Gewecke Level 9 (77,165 points)

    Kurt Lang wrote:


    Using the Character Viewer isn't a great choice. Yes, you can choose Dingbats to see all dingbats


    I think that actually displays only those dingbats with Private Use Area Unicode numbers attached to them.  Those without any numbers or mapped to Latin don't appear anywhere.

  • Kurt Lang Level 8 (36,670 points)

    Thank you for the clarification, Tom. That's is what I meant, but didn't say. Character Viewer also only shows Unicode assigned dingbats.


    Had an interesting discussion with Chris Cox on Adobe's forums. The new CC apps have done away with writing resource forks. In API documents, Apple has deprecated them. So it's entirely possible the Mac OS in the future could be moving to a single data structure like Windows. Which means all old legacy Mac TrueType suitcase fonts, and all Type 1 PostScript fonts would be dead since all of their data is in the resource fork.

  • Barry Glasgal Level 1 (25 points)

    Tom and Kurt,


    Thanks for your interest and input.


    I should have identified myself originally.  I am 75 years old and your comments are quite honestly a bit "over my head".


    That being said, I think I have solved my problem with your help.  In MS word I went to Insert Symbols-advanced symbols and there all the fonts were accessible.  I selected wingdings, selected the symbol I wanted, clicked insert and there it was on my document.  I have created a master document of symbols I would like to use and then in the  future it is just a matter of copy and paste.  I can add to my master doc whenever I have a need.  It's a bit cubersome but it works for this old guy.


    Thanks again for pointing me in the right direction.

  • RevSchaef Level 1 (0 points)

    I've had this same question myself and it's interesting to see how often the question is misunderstood in the forums I've seen it posted in.


    There used to be an application called FontBook (not the same FontBook that comes with OS X, which is confusing) that allowed you to print out sheets that showed you what would happen if you typed a, A, opt-a, and opt-A in any given font.  It was incredibly useful for symbol fonts and other wingdings fonts, etc. Or any font when you wanted to know how to type  in something (shift-option-K).


    That FontBook is not compatible with Lion and so is no longer useful. As others have pointed out, you can no longer adjust the font display on the Keyboard viewer.  One possible solution might be to edit the "custom" display in OS X's FontBook to basically be something like:





    Well, you get the idea.  When you view the custom display in that program, it will show you (more or less) the font you're looking at in roughly the keyboard layout.  Still not the most exact and helpful, but it's something.  In the meantime, I'm scouring the Web for the old FontBook's successor.

  • Kurt Lang Level 8 (36,670 points)

    Do you mean Lemke Software's FontBook?


    Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 3.31.37 PM.png


    If so, they still sell it. Current version is 4.6.2 and works just fine in Lion and Mountain Lion. Haven't tried it in Mavericks yet, but don't see any reason why it wouldn't work.


    The main problem with it is that the chart gives you at, best, access only to the first 256 characters in a font. So the whole app is still based on 8 bit, non Unicode fonts. Not that very many (if any) characters beyond that first 256 normally have any keystrokes for them anyway, but you don't even see anything beyond that first 256.

  • Tom Gewecke Level 9 (77,165 points)

    RevSchaef wrote:


    showed you what would happen if you typed a, A, opt-a, and opt-A in any given font. 


    With just about everything now being Unicode, it doesn't matter what font you are using, the same thing happens no matter what combo you type for a given keyboard layout.

  • RevSchaef Level 1 (0 points)



    Thank you. That is exactly the software I was looking for. Thanks, I just went and bought it. And the software that would probably be the answer to the OP's question.  If you're looking for the full range of Unicode characters in any given font, then you're right, it's limited.  But if you're trying to find the mapping for an odd font that uses different symbols (that aren't unicord) and mapped to the 8 bit characters, then this is definitely what works. 

  • RevSchaef Level 1 (0 points)



    Not every symbol in every symbol font is a unicode character.  Some fonts, like Anastasia, used in music transcribing programs, or various dingbats fonts (Christmas dingbats, etc.) map their characters to the 8-bit ASCII character set (e.g., "T" is a Christmas tree, etc.).  Without a program to help you see what each font looks like across that scheme, mapped to particular keys, it's hard to have any sense of how to generate these characters, as the OP states.


    As my old version of FontBook would no longer run on my current system, I was in the same position as the OP, but thanks to Kurt, I have downloaded (and am awaiting LemkeSoft's registration code for) the most up-to-date version.  It works perfectly for instances like non-Unicode symbol fonts (like the musical notation font below) and is helpful in printing font catalogs for easy review.


    Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 8.21.07 PM.png

    (I did pay for this, I swear.  I guess they're all asleep over there in Germany and are taking their time sending me the registration code.)