Typing special characters in ecto for MacOSX

Sometimes I get questions about how to type a special character in a draft, such as currency symbols, em dashes, and other things you don't find on your keyboard easily. Users are also looking for the html entity for the given character.

It is actually very easy. First we need to get help from the Mac. Go to System Preferences (under the Apple menu) and click on the “International” icon. Click on the Input Menu tab. You'll see a list of keyboard layouts, input methods, and palettes. Make sure that the Character Palette item is checked. Next, make sure that “Show input menu in menu bar” is also checked. You will now have an extra icon in your menu bar as shown in the screenshot below.

Character Palette

From that menu, choose “Show character palette”. That will give you something like this:

Character Palette

You can choose any character and click on Insert to put it in the front most window (i.e. your ecto draft window). If you're blog is using UTF-8 encoding, then you're done. But if it's not, you need to enable HTML entity conversion in ecto. Now, ecto already automatically detects that for you when you set up your account in ecto, so chances are that it has already been configured properly. To verify, go to Weblog→Edit Settings… and click on the “Preprocessing” tab. If it's not checked, it is very likely ecto has determined your blog is using UTF-8 encoding.

You can tell what encoding your blog supports by opening your blog in the browser. Select “View Source” so the browser will show your blog's underlying code. At the top there should be something like:

<meta http-equiv=“content-type” content=“text/html; charset=windows-1251” />

If it says “utf-8” (or even utf-16) after “charset”, then you do not need HTML entity encoding. In all other cases, you do.

As a case in point, the special characters in this entry ('→' and '…') were inserted using the Character Palette.

Posted by Adriaan on April 11, 2005