Pity the poor Windows user. If they want to describe a building's façade as being outré or naive, they have to resort to arcane three or four digit codes for specific character combinations; Mac users can simply type [O]+[C], [O]+[E], then [E] or [O]+[U] and [I]. No problems there.

But while it's easy to remember the shortcuts for the handful of accents we use regularly – and a few doughty souls might be able to type € or © without checking – today's fonts are stuffed full of handy characters (or 'glyphs') that can make your documents shine with professionalism.

Discreet application

Enter PopChar 4, the latest version of a utility that's been with us for more than two decades. It sits discreetly – even invisibly, if you like – in the menu bar, but when you click that little icon a floating window pops up showing you the full range of characters available.

In most popular apps, it can detect what font you're currently using and optionally only show you the character from that font.

Alternatively, a new All tab allows you to see all symbols available in all typefaces on your Mac; even if the character you want doesn't exist in the font you're using, all it takes is a double-click to insert it into your document.

Useful search tool

There's a handy search feature too, though we'd like it if more work was put into offering other keywords for characters; for example,_ is only listed with its technically correct 'place of interest' name, not 'command'.

PopChar remains a very useful tool, but be sure to explore the Character palette (International pane of System Preferences) and the glyph palettes of InDesign or QuarkXPress before you get out your credit card.