That One iMac Feature I Love Is Now on Windows

As an academic, one of the constants of our profession is the need to include diacritical marks in our writing. Now, as a long-time Windows user, I had learned the arcane language of the keyboard shortcuts one could memorize to insert specific marks, and later moved to using the Win Key + Period to open up a faster way of accessing special symbols and marks. But then…I began using an iMac in my work office. And I discovered the elegant beauty built into OS X of holding down a letter key and a pop-up menu of that letter with diacritical mark options magically appears to choose from. Seriously. Mind blown.

Insert here every Apple user mocking me for only now discovering this.

Every single Apple user

But rather than throw my Windows computer in the trash while slapping an Apple sticker on my car’s back windshield, I gritted my teeth and just kept using the other options on my Windows machine because, well, I’m obstinate and kind of like Windows.

And then, a few weeks ago, everything changed. Parity was achieved.

Windows can now do the same “hold key and select diacritical option” as a Mac!

Kind of.

Here is how it works. First, the feature has just been added in a cool tool produced by Microsoft called PowerToys. This is the revitalization of a much older application by Microsoft that offers a lab of Windows tools and features that they can test out and might, perhaps, maybe one day be wrapped into Windows at the operating system level. It offers an ever-growing list of tools, like a built-in eyedropper tool, image resizer, screen ruler, and even a universal video conference mute tool. But recently, they added Quick Accent which essentially mimics the feature from OS X.

Screenshot of the Quick Accent feature in Microsoft PowerToys.

Once you have installed PowerToys, go into the software and click the Enable Quick Accent setting. Essentially, that’s it. You can go into the settings and tweak more features, but once you have enabled it, as you type anywhere in Windows, you can now hold down any letter key and then tap one of the following: left arrow, right arrow, or space. Then a pop-up window with the diacritical mark options for that letter will appear:

Since it’s a pop-up and I don’t have 23 fingers, it’s impossible to get a screenshot of this. So here is one from Microsoft’s site.

And there it is. A much easier, faster, and more accessible way to add a diacritical mark to whatever you are writing. I will note that in my usage, the space bar is the worse way to do this; by using the right arrow, you can navigate directly to whichever mark you want to add. But continue holding down that letter key! Once you release it, the pop-up menu vanishes.

Go forth and insert diacritical marks like a champ!

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