More MacOS Fails: International Keyboard Tilde

How I learned to re-map keys in MacOS with Karabiner


Reimagining of René Magritte’s The Son of Man, image by Midjourney with eyebrows by yours truly

The Son Of A Tilde

For many MacOS users, keyboard shortcuts make or break the experience. I’m personally not too crazy about them, but there are a few that I use regularly:

  • Cmd+Tab to switch between applications
  • Cmd+Tilde (~) to switch between windows of the same single application
  • Cmd+Space to access apps (mostly just the Activity Monitor)
  • Cmd+Shift+4 to take screenshots
  • Ctrl+Option+Space to switch between input languages

Of those, I find the first two absolutely fundamental to my MacOS experience. I simply can’t function without them.

Other People’s MacBooks

I have a complicated history with MacBooks, but all of my MacBooks until now had one thing in common: a keyboard with the tilde (~) on the top left, right below the escape key. Just like most other keyboards.

A “regular” MacBook tilde key position

Last year, I was given a work computer with a non-standard keyboard layout; instead of the tilde character, it’s got this funny doohickey: §

It’s apparently called a “silcrow”, or a “section sign”, but I have to question the wisdom behind a decision to replace a frequently-used, well-established and — above all — accessible key with something that I’ve never seen used by an actual human being before. Anywhere. Ever.

And where did the tilde go? It moved here:



Adam Fisher / fisher king (@therightstuff)

Software developer and writer of words, currently producing a graphic novel adaptation of Shakespeare's Sonnets! See for details.