There are perhaps two and a half ways to access or type special characters in Mac OS X. The first is to hunt and peck for the symbol you need using the Special Character Viewer (System Preferences > Keyboard > click “Show Keyboard & Character Viewer in menu bar). The half comes via assigning keyboard shortcut for summoning the Special Character Viewer and then hunting.
Then there’s the much more precise method of using specific keyboard shortcuts, which are integrated into Mac OS X, for quickly and easily typing special characters and symbols without summoning the viewer and furtively hunting with the mouse.
If you’re anything like me, memorizing a handful of these combinations (i.e. ⌥ + Shift + 2 = €, ⌥ + 4 = ¢, ⌥ + ; = …, ⌥ + 8 = •) will be quite sufficient. Otherwise, it will probably be helpful to print out one of the available downloadable formats.
That said, the above is a small sample of the special characters And symbols available in OS X, most of which can’t be typed using a keyboard shortcut. Thereupon, in order to obviate wasteful mousing around, set up a keyboard shortcut (link above) for summoning the Special Character Viewer — I use ⌘ + ⌥ + T (Command + Option + T).