I'll like to use a symbol font character (upper right in the image, Glyph 5081). How can I copy the character from the Font Book and paste to another app?

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UPDATE: I can find the character at left, but not the one at right:

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The Font Book application can't paste glyphs into other applications.

You would need to use the Character Viewer of OS X. This tool is made to view all Unicode-defined characters in their font-specific renderings. You can then paste the glyph you want into any text input/editing application by double-clicking on the glyph.

Character Viewer is launched via the Keyboard menu in the top menu bar (click on the national flag). If you can't find it in the menu bar, open System Preferences > Language & Text, click on Input Sources. In the left sidebar, checkmark Keyboard and Character Viewer, then checkmark Show Input Menu in Menu Bar.

The Character Viewer can be configured. There have been some changes starting with OS X 10.7, so the handling depends on the version of OS X you have.

Character Viewer also has a special feature for dingbats fonts (Webdings, Wingdings). To activate it, click the gear button ⚙ and choose Customize List. Now checkmark Dingbats and also the Unicode-based character groups you want to have available. It will then appear in the list to the left...

If you already know the Unicode address or a part of the name of the character you want, enter it directly into the search field:

Screen shot: Character Viewer in OS X 10.7

  • What's the unicode # for Glyph 5081 (the solid backspace)? I only find U+232B (Erase to the left) in OS X 10.7 Character Viewer which is not the one I wanted. – ohho Jan 25 '13 at 1:33
  • @ohho: Not sure what you're looking for ('5081'?). A symbol printed on a keyboard would simply be a 'leftwards' arrow ⟵ or ⌫ (U+232b). If you mean the symbol for the backspace control character ␈ that some fonts feature along with ␆, ␕, ␍, etc. that would be U+2408. The actual Backspace control character (not a glyph) would be U+0008. – TehMacDawg Jan 25 '13 at 19:35
  • please see UPDATE in question – ohho Jan 27 '13 at 14:23
  • @ohho, now I see… A separate negative/inverted version of this symbol is not defined in Unicode itself. It is however included in the font 'Apple Symbols' as a glyph variant using a different address. Such glyph variants were accessible in Character Viewer up to OS X 10.6, but, thanks to Apple's f…up, not so anymore starting with OS X 10.7. It has been suggested to use the Character Viewer application from OS X 10.6 (named 'CharacterPalette.app') in 10.7 instead, see: apple.stackexchange.com/questions/24914/… – TehMacDawg Jan 27 '13 at 21:47
  • CharacterPalette.app might be a little slow and wonky at first, but it does work in 10.7.5: From the View popup menu, choose 'Glyph' view. Then select the Font 'Apple Symbols', scroll down to '5080' and drag the symbol you want into the text document. The symbol will be inserted including the font – it works e.g. in TextEdit with the document in RichText mode, but it doesn't work in plain text mode or any input box. I couldn't make it work in Illustrator CS 5.1 – TehMacDawg Jan 27 '13 at 21:52

The character viewer sucks if you're trying to use an icon font. I ended up paying $10 for the Ultra Character Map software (from iTunes store) — it lets you view all the characters of a font (like FontBook), lets you see glyph variants (like Character Viewer) and lets you copy an individual glyph (like Character Viewer).

The reason I couldn't use Character Viewer is because it organizes everything by unicode symbol. It's super tedious for me to look up the unicode for the icon font I'm using — in other words, if you don't know the unicode symbol and just want to browse the glyphs of a given typeface, you're hosed in Character Viewer.


There's two things that need to be copied here, the character code, and the font name. Most all software should copy the character code. I'm not sure if all software will also bring along with it the font name.

The steps would be:

  • highlight the icon you want
  • COPY
  • open the software you are pasting into
  • if the font didn't change when you PASTEd, then you have to do one last step, and that's highlight the character you PASTEd and then choose the font with the icons you wanted.

I ended up creating a psd file with every character of every icon font on my computer, and just cut and paste out of that. Not really ideal though.

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