Saturday, March 09, 2013

Zero-Width Space

Since Buzzfeed picked up my post about stealth fanout on Twitter a few people have asked me how one can best produce a "zero-width space" on a Mac.

Here's how you do it.

On a Mac, pretty much any time you're typing text (including when you're composing a Tweet) you can hit ⌥⌘T to bring up the "Special Characters" window, and from here you can find (and use) pretty much any Unicode character out there. Try typing "zero width space" into the search field:

Image 2013 03 06 4 06 09 PM
and you'll find the elusive character… by definition it's kinda invisible. But you can add it to your favorite Special Characters, insert it into what you're typing directly from here, or copy it to the clipboard.

If you want to make it super-easy to use a zero-width space you can create a global text shortcut in the "Language and Text" area of the Mac's System Preferences. Here below I'm setting things up so that every time I type "zws" a zero-width space is inserted:

Image 2013 03 06 4 08 40 PM


1234567890 said...

FYI, it doesn't appear adding this as a global shortcut works is 10.9. When you insert the zero width space and try to close or click out of the field you just inserted it in system preferences, you get an error message that reads: "The replacement must contain at least one character. Please provide a valid word or phrase."

Andrew Escobar said...

In OS X 10.9, when setting up your keyboard shortcut, just add an extra character in addition to the zero-width space. For example, I paste in the a zero-width joiner and then type a “_”. I have to delete that underscore when I use the shortcut, but then I’m left with a working zero-width joiner.

Unknown said...

Is this trick defunct now for some reason? When I type ⌥⌘T nothing happens...unless I'm in word, and then it just hides the toolbar. What am I doing wrong? ⌥ is the Option Key, right?

Isaac said...

They changed the key combination in OS X Yosemite. It's now ^⌘Space rather than ⌥⌘T

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