If you’re a web developer or just like to use every character imaginable in your daily routine, Macs have a menu for that. Whenever you’re in a text field, you can just click “Edit” and click “Special Characters…”, or simply use the shortcut CMD + Option + T. It’s a nice, easy way to insert pictographs and the like, but what if you want a little something more, there’s a new app in town.
Being the sheriff and all, I introduced myself to him. He’s an outlaw of third-party sorts; says his name is Characters. He carries his fair share of trusty bullets and stars and even tries to hit you with a few arrows once in a while. Even though his supply of said objects isn’t as plentiful as that of Apple’s, he’s been taught some Greek and Latin to talk his way out of any predicament. This fellow don’t mess around. I happened to haul him in for questioning and found a few extra developer tools on board. Let me take you back to the Old West for a few minutes while we examine Characters.
Welcome to the Ampersand
Install Characters on your Mac and it’ll have been branded. This app slaps an ampersand right in your Launchpad. The icon isn’t half bad though; the designer did add a nice drop shadow to it. When you click it, another one pops up in your menu bar just waiting for a fight. I can’t say much for the spirits ‘round this particular saloon, but the vintage black-and-white icon fits in well with the boys (Dropbox, AirPort, time, etc.). Now, click that ampersand and you’ll be whisked off to the world of Characters. I’ll give you fair warning: you may come back with a dingbat or two so be careful.
What would this sort of app be without a search function? The integrated one works just as well as OS X’s and it’s always found what I’ve been looking for, but I have one suggestion: let users input HTML code for a character to see what it really looks like. This would make Characters an even more valuable tool since it could work both ways instead of just allowing you to copy something.
Searching will yield results from all categories, regardless of what you have enabled in the app’s preferences.
As I said before, this menu bar app doesn’t have the widest selection of drink. I like the fact that all the basics are there because those are what I personally use most, but what about the web developers who need a selection that’s a bit wider? OS X’s Special Characters window’s arrow selection, for example, is colossal compared to the Characters app. I’d expect a third-party alternative to at least have more, but it falls short in most categories. The bullets are still first-generation .22 magnum with a few 12-gauge shells for the shotgun. I don’t see anything futuristic here, but OS X offers every crazy thing you can imagine. There’s even a bullet that looks like a bullet.
There are many characters hidden in the Dingbats category, so enable that under the gear to make sure you have as many showing as possible.
If you take things abroad and archaic, Characters only offers Cyrillic, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and Latin Extended-A. I understand that these are the main characters that people will use, but what if you want something like Armenian or Coptic? Head over to OS X’s official window — again.
Pictographs? Oh yes, we have four of those in stock for you today and they’re all related to playing cards. I like the idea of having a menu bar-based app for this sort of thing, but why must the selection be so offering? $2.99 is a bit steep for something so restricted and it feels like more of a tweak or add-on than an app.
Copy HTML Code for a Character
The most valuable feature in Characters is its ability to copy the HTML code for a special unicode character. You can click the “Designer/Developer” switch to toggle modes and you’re going to want developer mode for HTML codes. All you have to do is click a character and the app will automatically put the HTML for it in your clipboard. You can then proceed to put it in your WordPress theme or add it to a website you’re working on. It’s an fast and easy way to keep your workflow moving smoothly without switching to another app.
This is a tool for developers, so I understand that there’s no functionality for normal users. Sadly, there’s a very limited selection of special characters and on top of that, the only functionality that makes this worth using is HTML code copying. While everything works great and there are no bugs, there’s also no reason to use this as a tool since it doesn’t have enough to offer. If you’re working on something simple then it’ll be fine, but if you need some extra special arrows or something, this isn’t going to work. I’d suggest using a web resource instead. Otherwise, use this app as the only way to access characters in the fastest manner possible.