How to access Private Use Area glyphs via keyboard?

Hey everybody,

the answer to this may be simple but I couldn’t find a solution elsewhere. If anybody will be able to help I’d really appreciate it! :wink:

I’m currently creating a symbol font. As the symbols don’t match any existing characters I’m putting them in the Private Use Area, starting with E000. This however makes it a bit annoying to access the glyphs later on (e.g. in InDesign via Glyphs window). I’d rather have them accessible via keyboard, e.g. type ‘a’ to get one of the symbols. This can be found with fonts like Webdings for example, as I can type a lower case ‘a’ in InDesign, but the font is actually displaying a checkmark, and if I check in the Glyphs window i can see that the Unicode value is ‘private use area–F061’. Of course it would be easy to just give my symbol the unicode value for lower case a, but I understand that it would not be a good thing to assign a glyph that isn’t the lower case letter a to that unicode value.

Any ideas on how I can access a glyph (e.g. E001) while actually typing a different lower case letter on the keyboard? Or is this not a good idea at all? Thanks!


The Webdings font is encoded as special symbol font. That is not used for new fonts any more.
You can do some OpenType tricks. Either just do sub a by uniE000; or use ‘speaking’ ligatures: sub c h e c k by uniE000;

Thanks a lot for your reply Georg, this seems to do the trick! Although I am wondering if it’s a “good” way to go. Which OpenType feature should I best use for this – ligatures? If I do this, I can see in the glyphs window in InDesign that it doesn’t show the glyph ‘uniE000’ anymore, but instead now shows the glyph as a standard ligature for ‘latin small letter a’ with ‘uni0061’. Can this lead to problems elsewhere?

Thanks again!


None if possible. It is an accessibility hack and should, if at all, only be used when nothing else works.

More general solution: Use the entry methods by the system: character palette (doubleclick, drag and drop) or a Unicode keyboard layout (often labelled ‘Extended’ or ‘Plus’), the one with a US keyboard is called Unicode Hex Input: you hold down the Option key and type the Unicode value.

Or use a third party app like UnicodeChecker (drag and drop, copy and paste), or create your own keyboard layout with Ukelele if you find yourself using the same handful of PUA codes over and over again.

Thanks. As I understand from your reply there is no “clean” way to substitute a glyph by another glyph automatically without messing around with unicode values or features too much. I’d rather leave my hands off this then. The main idea was to make it easier to handle the font (not only for myself but the person purchasing, which is why your more general solutions don’t work for me here) as I was mainly wondering how they did it with Webdings or Wingdings – which according to Georg isn’t relevant anymore – but I don’t see its worth risking other problems.

Thanks a lot to both of you though! Love the glyphs app and the helpful tutorials and blogposts.

Einen schönen Abend euch! Lukas

Experiment with different solutions and test them thoroughly. Think also what the users may expect, and what is (easily) supported by software.

Viel Spaß :slight_smile: