Home > Mac administration, Mac OS X > Disabling smart quotes in Mavericks

Disabling smart quotes in Mavericks

As I’ve mentioned previously, Apple does at least one thing with each new OS release that a) annoys me and b) makes me wonder about the thought process that went behind it.

In Mavericks, it’s smart quotes. These are quotes that are curved in shape and face in different directions, depending on if they’re opening quotes or closing quotes.

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 4.49.23 PM

Having smart quotes is inconvenient for me because I can’t always tell when they’re in use until I copy and paste. If I’m copying and pasting content into a script, smart quotation marks aren’t recognized as legal quote marks, which means I have to find and replace them.

Fortunately, it’s possible to turn smart quotes off. See below the jump for details.

There’s two places I know of where you may need to turn off smart quotes:

A. System Preferences

B. TextEdit

To disable smart quotes via System Preferences:

1. Open System Preferences

2. Select the Keyboard preference pane

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 4.49.37 PM

3. Select the Text tab in the Keyboard preferences

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 4.49.42 PM

4. Uncheck Use smart quotes and dashes

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 4.49.49 PM

To disable smart quotes in TextEdit

1. Launch TextEdit

2. In the TextEdit menu, select Preferences…

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 4.52.03 PM

3. Uncheck Smart quotes and Smart dashes

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 4.51.40 PM

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 5.07.19 PM

4. Close the the Preferences window

5. In TextEdit’s Edit menu, select Substitutions

6. Under Substitutions, uncheck Smart Quotes and Smart Dashes

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 4.57.56 PM

Once smart quotes have been disabled, quotes should return to being non-curly quotes marks.

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 4.55.32 PM

Other applications may have smart quote settings, so you may need to check in the application settings.

  1. Max
    February 2, 2014 at 10:38 am

    Hi Rich, do you know where this setting is stored?

    • February 2, 2014 at 11:01 pm


      The System Preferences’ settings are stored in ~/Library/Preferences/.GlobalPreferences.plist. You can turn them on and off with defaults:

      Disable smart quotes:

      defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSAutomaticQuoteSubstitutionEnabled -bool false

      Disable smart dashes:

      defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSAutomaticDashSubstitutionEnabled -bool false

      For TextEdit, these settings are stored in ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.TextEdit:

      Disable smart quotes:

      defaults write com.apple.TextEdit SmartQuotes -bool false

      Disable smart dashes:

      defaults write com.apple.TextEdit SmartDashes -bool false
  2. February 12, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    That ‘Subsitutions’ menu, along with a few others, should appear when you right click on text in any application that uses the Cocoa text engine.

  3. Marc
    May 30, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    This is a horrible “feature”! Thank so much you for this post!

  4. September 3, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Great! At first I had only found how to turn them off in TextEdit, but they stayed on because of the system setting. Thanks for the tip.

  5. Rainer Lanz
    September 18, 2014 at 7:06 am

    Hello Rich,

    thank you very much for documenting this. I came here while searching for ways to disable smart quotes in Automator, which drive me crazy especially when using the “Run Shell Script” action…

    Alas, neither of the following settings helped in Automator:
    1. Switching off “Use smart quotes and dashes” in System Preferences
    2. Setting “SmartQuotes” to false for Automator via the defaults command (as for TextEdit)
    3. Setting “NSAutomaticQuoteSubstitutionEnabled” to false for Automator via defaults (as for the OS)

    Regardless of these settings, and across re-login and restart, every newly deployed Automator action using a Cocoa text input field has smart quotes (and the other “smarties”) enabled by default, as can be verified with the contextual menu (thanks, connectionfailure!).

    I also checked if disabling via contextual menu is persistent for saved workflows, but it isn’t. I even tried to “force” smart quotes off by manually adding NSAutomaticQuoteSubstitutionEnabled entries to the document.wflow file inside the workflow bundle, but it didn’t help, either.

    Would you have any other ideas – besides filing a bug with Apple?

    Best regards

    • Mr.K
      November 28, 2014 at 6:03 am

      You can control-click the text view in Automator to show its contextual menu which includes substitution options.

      • Rainer Lanz
        November 28, 2014 at 11:26 am

        Hello Mr.K,

        thanks for the hint. But I already knew this from commenter “connectionfailure” and referred to it as “disabling via contextual menu” in my comment, and as I also stated, this setting unfortunately doesn’t stick: Every time you reopen a workflow for editing, you’ll find that the “Run Shell Script” action has been reset to “Use smart quotes and dashes” enabled.

        What I am looking for is a way to permanently disable smart quotes, etc. in Automator, or at least in a saved workflow, but there doesn’t seem to be a solution.

        Regards, Rainer

  6. webdevka
    March 8, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Gosh, you made my day! I am learning to code and these smart quotes were driving me nuts! I was sure I was doing something wrong, but now I see what actually happened))) Thanks a lot!!! You are awesome!

  7. May 20, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    Does anyone know how to turn them off in Pages? I had them off, but some came back smart after my editing sent my manuscript back with her comments and changes.

  8. February 15, 2016 at 4:23 pm


  9. Chris L.
    April 22, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    To disable smart quotes in OSX El Capitan iMessage: Edit -> Substitutions -> Smart Quotes (uncheck)

  10. jeffbonhag
    February 3, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    Thanks, this was very helpful!

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: