Keyboard Shortcut Glyphs

You may have noticed how I like to use keyboard symbols in my posts. You know, things like ⇧, or ⌃, or ⌘, or even ⌥. I use → a lot too, which is helpful when laying out a certain order of steps in my tutorials.

Some of you may think that I’ve memorized the code for these symbols (I haven’t), or that I copy and paste them from a document or keep them on my clipboard somehow (I don’t). Instead, I use the venerable TextExpander utility to make inserting these symbols a totally effortless affair.

If you’re a Mac user and don’t already use TextExpander, then all I can say is run, don’t walk over to Smile Software, and download TextExpander today. I can unequivocally recommend it to any Mac user, but if you’re skeptical, there’s a free trial offer that you can take advantage of as well.

TextExpander cuts down on the amount of keystrokes that you have to type by expanding snippets of text into larger pieces of text. If you find yourself typing out the same customary greetings, addresses, or anything else, then TextExpander can save you time.

With that said, if you make tutorials, or do anything else on you Mac that requires you to repeatedly use keyboard command symbols, then I highly recommend that you add them to TextExpander. Here’s what I’ve done:

Keyboard Symbols TextExpander

I’ve assigned shortcuts to my most frequently used symbols. When I type !cmd it automatically expands into ⌘ and when I type !appl it automatically expands into .

Since I always use these symbols as I’m writing my tutorials for the blog, these shortcuts are instrumental for me. It would be nice if more people adopted the practice of using symbols in their tweets, status updates, and blog posts.

If you prefer to use the actual Unicode decimal values instead, then feel free to use the values highlighted below. You can then paste these into Content section of your TextExpander shortcut instead of the actual symbol.

⌘ – ⌘
⌥ – ⌥
⇧ – ⇧
⌃ – ⌃
 – 

There’s more than one satisfactory way to pull this off, but TextExpander makes the entire process so simple that I didn’t think twice about using it. Do you use TextExpander? How has it helped your workflow?

  • Shaw

    Seems great till I see the price. $34.95!!! Woow

    • So worth it. It’s long term software that you’ll save time (and thus money) using.

      • Bruce Milyko

        I prefer a cheeper option of aText. It works just as well as TextExpander, but only $4.99.

    • Tom

      Pirate it.

  • Timothy

    Yosemite and Mavericks have a very easy-to-use character palette. I’ve saved all the symbols as favorites, so I can just type ⌃⌘Space and see all the symbols there. I can even search for a new symbol without taking my hands off the keyboard!

    • Guest


    • Yep, more than one way to skin the proverbial cat, but there’s something satisfying about instant-expanding.

      • Timothy

        Of course! Just letting people know of a free, built-in option if that’s more their cup of tea (to use another metaphor). 🙂

      • Timothy

        I’m curious, have you ever used Keyboard Maestro? What are your thoughts?

      • I love KBM. I use it every day.

      • Timothy

        And you don’t find TextExpander redundant? As you said, there’s more than one way to expand text instantly, but do you have any specific reasons to use TE in addition to KBM? (I understand if it’s simply what you do, with no particular reasoning; I’m just curious.)

      • I purchased TE before KBM. I prefer to use TE for expansion, just do to its simple setup, and its focus. KBM can do pretty much everything, it’s insanely deep; and yes, it’s pretty good at text expansion as well. But TextExpander is king at expansion and offers more in that area, because that’s literally all it does.

      • Guest

        Ironically, this “TextExpander” feature is already built into iOS as well as OSX. Simply go to Spotlight > Type “Keyboard Shortcuts” > Select “Text” and fire away. So long as each shortcut to be expanded is two characters or greater, you’re set.

      • Derp

        No. It doesn’t work system wide. For example if you use chrome it never registers.

  • omghilly

    Ironically, this “TextExpander” feature is already built into iOS as well as OSX. Simply go to Spotlight > Type “Keyboard Shortcuts” > Select “Text” and fire away. So long as each shortcut to be expanded is two characters or greater, you’re set.

    • Timothy

      I don’t think “ironic” means what you think it means.

    • That’s no where near as good as TE’s instant expansion. There’s a big difference there.

  • Feivl

    How can you write !cmd in the description without expanding it automatically into ⌘?

    • Timothy

      Lots of options, but, for instance: !cd[leftarrow]m

    • Type !cm d and then go back, and remove the space.

  • Sachka

    Awesome Jeff, I was looking for this last week

  • FRostIFreeze

    you suck Jeff Benjamin

  • Brian Bucknam

    Good tip for TextExpander! Since this snippet group uses ! as a leading character for all the snippets (that is, unlikely to be typed within a normal word), you could set the Group’s Expand after to “any character”, then you could type “(!ctl” and have it expand (instead of having to type a space that you later delete, i.e. “( !ctl”).

    Is there a reason you haven’t updated to TextExpander 4?