With quoted-insert (C-q) I can enter ‘Option-something’ extended characters, but Emacs apparently understands them as ISO 8859-1. Meanwhile, MacOS has its own layout for these characters (changed with the input language or custom layouts), and there's a cheatsheet in the form of ‘Keyboard viewer.’

Is there any way to make Emacs use the same layout for M-something in quoted-insert as native applications do?

I could conceivably edit a keymap by hand to reflect the system one, but 1) I don't see a mention of a special keymap for quoted-insert, and 2) I'd prefer not to.

Apparently Emacs does receive native characters if Option keys aren't set up as Meta, however I don't have an abundance of modifier keys on my keyboard so I'd prefer to keep Option as Meta and use quoted-insert when needed.

  • 1
    While formulating the question I found out that unmapping Meta from Option apparently lets one use native special characters, and realized that I could probably make a wrapper that does the unmapping and then launches quoted-insert. Will try that and post results.
    – aaa
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 12:45

1 Answer 1


As I learned that Emacs enters native special symbols if Option isn't mapped to Meta, I went ahead and made a wrapper for quoted-insert that does the unmapping:

(defun my/quoted-insert-wrapper (arg)
  "For quoted-insert, unmap Option from Meta so special symbols can be entered with the native Mac layout"
  (interactive "*p")
  (let ((mac-option-modifier 'none))
    (quoted-insert arg)))

;;; this should work for non-Evil setups, but haven't tested it
;; (global-set-key (kbd "C-v") #'my/quoted-insert-wrapper)

(define-key evil-insert-state-map (kbd "C-v") #'my/quoted-insert-wrapper)

Works like a charm so far, even for diacritic modifiers. Users of non-Latin layouts will probably also want to add a mapping for keys in their language on the same location as Latin C-v.

However, I'm not sure whether hijacking the option with let would work if lexical binding is enabled—but that's a different issue. Presumably I still could setq the option and then revert it after quoted-insert.

  • Some additional backgound: The variable mac-option-modifier is an alias for ns-alternate-modifier, which is defined in nsterm.m. The user also free to set the left/right Option keys differently; e.g., (setq ns-alternate-modifier 'meta ns-right-alternate-modifier 'none) will permit the right option key to behave with system defaults, and the left will be have as Meta.
    – lawlist
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 18:16
  • @lawlist True, however afaik there's little point in keeping around methods to enter symbols in both Mac layout and ISO 8859-1. Meanwhile, touch typing advises to press the key with one hand and the modifier with the other; furthermore Option-Shift-key becomes rather cumbersome if you have to stick to one of the two Options.
    – aaa
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 20:41

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