How to activate or restore missing press-and-hold diacritical marks in OS X

A reader has a grave complaint about an acute problem adding accents.

apple keyboard diacritical remarks

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by Macworld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

Nicolas Finney finds El Capitan has elided his ability to enter accents easily:

In iOS and Yosemite, there was a very convenient shortcut for inserting alternate characters (e.g., an ‘e’ with an accent ague (é)). The procedure was to hold down the base character (e) until a menu appeared so that you could select the alternate character you needed.

This remains available in El Capitan, but a system configuration file may have gone hinky. There’s a hidden that runs that manages this process. You can use Activity Monitor (in Applications > Utilities) to see if PressAndHold is running: Just enter that name in the monitor’s Search field and see if there’s a match.

If it’s there and it’s not working, you may be using a third-party app that doesn’t properly interact with El Capitan’s security model for keyboard entry. Also, Apple’s Terminal app doesn’t consult PressAndHold, but only allows hold-and-repeat entry.

If PressAndHold isn’t listed, then launch the Terminal and type the following and then press return:

defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool true

You need to log out and back in or restart your Mac to have the change take effect.

If none of that works, you’ve got 101 problems, and accented keys aren’t any of them. You should look into alternatives, such as the older-but-still-included method of combining Option with other keys to produce diacriticals and other symbols and alternate characters. I cover this in a column from February 2016.

Ask Mac 911

We’re always looking for problems to solve! Email yours to including screen captures as appropriate. Mac 911 cannot reply to email with troubleshooting advice nor can we publish answers to every question.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon