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How can I type greek letters and mathematical equations into Evernote or any other OSX application?

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Evernote doesn't behave differently from other applications in Mac OS X in this regard. You can safely remove all references to it from your question to make it more useful to others. – Daniel Beck Jan 30 '11 at 15:28
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Some might be available on your keyboard. Some might need to be inserted e.g. using Character Viewer.

Open System Preferences » Keyboard and check Show Keyboard & Character Viewer in menu bar.

You'll have a new status item to the right of the menu bar. From there, you can open the following:

  • Keyboard Viewer lets you see all the characters you can press using your current keyboard layout. Press modifier keys (option and/or shift) to see which characters you type when these modifier keys are pressed. Pressing w while holding down option results in ∑ for me. enter image description here

  • Character Viewer shows you all (?) characters available on your system. Select a character and click Insert, or double-click the character to insert it in your current text box. enter image description here

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Every time I check the "Show Keyboard & Character Viewer" and I close the "system preferences" window, nothing shows up on my menu bar and if I reopen the System preferences, the checkbox is unchecked. – Fernando Jan 30 '11 at 15:55
@Fernando If you have multiple keyboard layouts ("input sources") defined, they share a menu item. Otherwise, go to System Preferences » Language & Text » Input Sources and make sure Show input menu in menu bar is checked. – Daniel Beck Jan 30 '11 at 15:56
it wrks now, thanks! – Fernando Jan 30 '11 at 16:07

If you have the Input Sources menu item in your menu bar, you can switch to a Greek keyboard layout. Then, you can just type without the Option key and you have access to the full alphabet.

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Might be inconvenient if just required for a handful of mathematical symbols, but could be useful anyway. – Daniel Beck Jan 30 '11 at 16:35

Depending on the complexity of your equations it might also be an idea to have a look at LaTeX and in specific the free application LaTeXiT which can provide a system-wide shortcut (via the "services" menu) to typeset formulas though LaTeX and insert them e.g. as a PDF.

This has been a lifesaver for me when I had to typeset sophisticated equations into Keynote and PowerPoint presentations!

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CajunLuke mentioned the input sources menu. Once you've selected the Greek keyboard in that menu, you can go to the preferences screen Keyboard>Shortcuts and assign a custom shortcut to switch input sources. It makes throwing a few greek letters into a sentence very quick and easy, once you've learned which keys map to which characters -- no need to open a viewer window or bring in the mouse. Just hit the shortcut, type in Greek, and hit it again to switch back.

However, be careful to make your shortcut a non-letter key (e.g., ctrl-shift-space). If you use a letter, it will be recognized when you switch from your normal language to Greek, but it won't be recognized when you want to switch back.

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