How to Easily Insert Special Symbols and Characters in Windows - Part I


Did you ever want to put a special character like the cent sign (¢) or the British pound sign (£) into a document or email? Or use the correct symbols for Spanish or other languages? Regular users of word processing programs like Microsoft Word probably already know how to do this but many average PC users are not aware that easy methods of inserting special characters are readily available.

There are several methods and in this tip I’ll describe an old standby. From the early days of Windows, it has been possible to use the numeric keypad with Num Lock enabled to insert a variety of characters using some simple codes. (Be aware that these codes differ from the HTML versions.) The general procedure goes like this:

  1. Place the insertion point (cursor) in the document location where you want the special character
  2. Hold down the Alt key
  3. Type the appropriate four-number code from the numeric keypad. The first digit is always a zero. Be sure Num Lock is enabled.
  4. Release the Alt key

A few examples of the codes are given in the table below. Note that they all begin with zero and differ from HTML codes. More examples can be found at this link and a detailed list at this link. These particular codes date back to an old coding system called ISO Latin 1 and go no higher than 0255. But there is a huge assortment of characters and symbols in what is known as Unicode and I will discuss them in Part II. In the meantime, the numeric keypad gives you quite a variety of symbols and characters to add to your documents.

Some examples of numeric keypad codes
Description Character Code
cent sign ¢ 0162
pound sterling £ 0163
copyright © 0169
degree sign ° 0176
plus/minus ± 0177
superscript two ² 0178
fraction three-fourths ¾ 0190
inverted question mark ¿ 0191
capital C, cedilla Ç 0199
small c, cedilla ç 0231
small n, tilde ñ 0241
division sign ÷ 0247

If you have one of the smaller or older laptops that lack a numeric keypad, you can probably activate similar functions with an Fn key or other method. Check your instructions or help function.

Part II describes ways to add even more symbols to your documents.

More information: Add Custom Characters to Documents Using the Numeric Keypad

This tip applies to the American version of all current Windows editions and may or may not be relevant to other language distributions or systems with other keyboard layouts.

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's and tutorials, including  a computer education website and a site for learning about the command line.

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