As software engineers writing internationalised applications it’s very useful to have quick access to vital information about Unicode characters such as their names, glyphs in various typefaces and how they are encoded under various schemes. Mac OS X has a very nice character palette with a view called “Code Tables” that seems to be designed with us developer types in mind.
Character Palette.jpg
As you can see from the screen shot, the character palette lets you see the Unicode character space broken up into different code pages, information about particular characters such as the Unicode codepoint and the bytes representing the UTF-8 encoding. If you’re looking for a ‘Y’ like character with acutes or graves or one of the various other diacritics, all you have to do is click on the regular latin ‘Y’ character to be quickly shown all of these related characters. There is even a full text search option over the character names and descriptions. There is one annoying aspect of this tool however: it floats above all other windows and can’t be sent to the back.
The main way of accessing this character palette is via the Input Menu which must be enabled via System Preferences > International > Input Menu. You then must click on the Input Menu and pick Show character palette. For those who want even quicker access to this tool you can use the Command + Option + T keyboard shortcut or you can drag /System/Library/Components/CharacterPalette.component/Contents/SharedSupport/ to the dock if you can never remember keyboard shortcuts.

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