Unicode via Alfred

Something I miss a lot on macOS is a fast way to enter Unicode characters. macOS does a pretty good job of handling combining keys so that you can type é and ö, and it's got a fancy emoji picker, but if you want to enter ∫ or ⚠, you're stuck using the terrible character picker window1:

screenshot of the character picker

Well, no longer. If you, like me, use Alfred 4 on your Mac, you can download the following Alfred Workflow to get a new "unicode" Alfred command. This uses a fast index2 to look up unicode characters by name. The first time you run it, it builds the index on your system (which might take 10 or 20 seconds; be patient); every subsequent run will be super-fast. Just hit Return on your desired entry to copy the character to the clipboard; hold ⌘ while pressing Return to copy the metadata3 instead.

screenshot of fast-unicode

Note that this requires an up-to-date Python3 to be somewhere in your $PATH.

fast-unicode.alfredworkflow

Enjoy!


  1. You can bring this up by enabling "Show keyboard and emoji viewers in menu bar" and then clicking "Show Emoji & Symbols" in the new menu item that appears. This window is strange; it floats on top of most other windows, but not all. I usually end up getting it stuck on another virtual desktop and spending 30 seconds searching for it when I need it. 

  2. Technically, it uses a sqlite database where I store tokenized emoji names, as well as bigrams and trigrams. sqlite is great. 

  3. For example, for ⌘, you get U+2318 PLACE OF INTEREST SIGN 


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