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There are literally thousands of different characters; many more than would fit on a keyboard. There's an approach to type the less common ones.

Can you tell me how to access the many odd characters and fractions etc. that are available? I used to know how but forgot. I remember it had to use a combination of numbers or characters to access them.

Sure. It's actually pretty simple, and very easy to do.

The problem is that many of the codes you might type in may not display the same character in all places. In most, cases the set of characters is fairly consistent, but you might run into a case or two where what you see is not what you expect.

The "how" is easy:

"... how do you figure out what codes to use?"
  • Depending on your keyboard, you may need to make sure that Num Lock is selected to enable the numeric keypad.

  • Hold down the ALT key.

  • On the numeric pad, type the numeric code for the character you want to insert.

  • Release the ALT key.

That's it! It should now have "typed" a single character corresponding to the code you entered.

So I can guess the next question: how do you figure out what codes to use?

If you search for "alt codes" you'll get links to several lists. Here's one useful one.

I'll throw out a few examples as well, though:

Code Character HTML
0128 €
0153 ™
0169 © ©
0174 ® ®
0178 ² ²
0189 ½ ½

A few points about the list:

  • The leading zero is important. ALT+0153 and ALT+153 are two completely different characters.

  • This is actually a Windows keyboard standard - meaning that the characters displayed might be different if a different character encoding is being used.

  • I've included an "HTML" column above that shows the proper HTML special character encoding that you should use if you are writing HTML to ensure that the characters are displayed properly across as many platforms as possible (though even then, some less common characters are sometimes not available everywhere).

Another tool to play with, if you're interested in special characters, is the Windows "charmap" utility. Click on Start, then Run and type in "charmap" and press OK. In this utility you can select individual characters from any font installed on your machine, and then copy then to the clipboard for pasting into whatever application you choose.

All in all it's useful stuff, and besides typing in special characters into your word processing documents, these techniques can often be used to liven up your IM messages, Twitter tweets and more.

Article C3884 - October 3, 2009 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

24 Comments
Jerry Russo
October 4, 2009 8:47 AM

Leo,

Thank you very much, this is just what I was looking for. You hit the nail right on the head, you scored 100 %.
Thanks again, I'm sure you will hear from me again.
Jerry

Chris Martin
October 4, 2009 11:01 AM

TwitterKeys allows you to pick special characters with FireFox.

Jon Schweitzer
October 6, 2009 8:11 AM

This site has all of the combos. I've used it many times.

http://www.xs4all.nl/~marktfd/vzkeys.htm

Robert Graham
October 6, 2009 9:47 AM

That's all very well but what's the keystroke combination for backslash (I don't have it on my keyboard)?

John J Swain
October 6, 2009 10:17 AM

Here are some useful German Characters:

0228 =
0246 =
0252 =

0196 =
0214 =
0220 =

0223 =

Judi M.
October 6, 2009 10:22 AM

Robert Graham, I think most keyboards have the backward slash just below the Backspace key and left of the Delete key (above the Enter key). You don't need upper case to type it. Hope this helps...

Roy
October 6, 2009 10:48 AM

Another alternative source for extensive Special Characters,
Magickalmoon

gautam kumar
October 6, 2009 11:12 AM

but how can i write power 5 6 7 .....
or fraction like 7/8 9/10 like this
or chemical formule like Cr2O5
i could not get

Robert Graham
October 6, 2009 12:31 PM

Judi M, Unfortunately, my keyboard, which is a special USB keyboard, doesn't have a backslash anywhere (and I've tried every shft/alt combination I can think of).

Les
October 6, 2009 1:41 PM

Good tip, thanks Leo, but a bit cumbersome in practice. I am using Clavier+. It is magic and free. You can set your own keyboard shortcuts to dozens of characters. Find it at http://utilfr42.free.fr/

Neil Kirby
October 6, 2009 2:37 PM

If you are using Windows XP HE Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Character Map can be useful to give you symbols/fractions/etc.

contractorr
October 7, 2009 1:36 PM

If you using any of MS Office programs like Word or excel, click on INSERT tab on ribbon. On Insert tab select Symbol, (shown as greek Omega)usually it is right most on robbon. Once you select Symbol, it will diplay a winow with all symbols you need.

Balthazar
October 7, 2009 8:01 PM

For those who have not heard Leo on New York City radio on Oct. 7, 2009
http://archive.wbai.org/files/mp3/091007_200001pcs.MP3

Ursula
October 7, 2009 8:48 PM

I have a Dell laptop and there is no key that says "numbers lock"

Ursula
October 7, 2009 8:57 PM

Now I found the "number lock" key..... I pushed on it, then I held down Ctrl 0128 to see what character I would get, and all that happened is that I got those 4 numbers in the body of my email

Nigel Broder
October 8, 2009 5:36 PM

Ursula, You need to hold down the Alt key, not the Ctrl key.

Alt 0128 =

Merna B.
October 10, 2009 11:01 PM

(a) free download http://allchars.zwolnet.com/

(b) http://www.copypastecharacter.com/
To have the benefit of using this page when not online, I have saved the web page to my hard drive:

File
Save As ...
Save as type Web Archive, single file (*.mht)

(c) For German in particular - http://www.germancorner.com/

There is a potential treasure trove of information at the http://www.germancorner.com/info/ page. I say "potential" because the "Hear the National Anthems" boxes at the top of the /info/ page do not work and there are older copyright dates on the bottom of the sublinks that do work. Those working sublinks contain a lot of information and downloads (including fonts and spellcheckers).

I also found the http://www.germancorner.com/education/index.html (one of the sublinks from the /info/ page) and its sublinks very interesting.

Merna B.

Merna B.
October 10, 2009 11:02 PM

(a) free download http://allchars.zwolnet.com/

(b) http://www.copypastecharacter.com/
To have the benefit of using this page when not online, I have saved the web page to my hard drive:

File
Save As ...
Save as type Web Archive, single file (*.mht)

(c) For German in particular - http://www.germancorner.com/

There is a potential treasure trove of information at the http://www.germancorner.com/info/ page. I say "potential" because the "Hear the National Anthems" boxes at the top of the /info/ page do not work and there are older copyright dates on the bottom of the sublinks that do work. Those working sublinks contain a lot of information and downloads (including fonts and spellcheckers).

I also found the http://www.germancorner.com/education/index.html (one of the sublinks from the /info/ page) and its sublinks very interesting.

Merna B.

Glenn P.
October 11, 2009 12:18 AM

"Character Map" -- CharMap.EXE -- is located within your "C:\WINDOWS\System32" directory (or "folder" to use Microsoft-speak). I place a shortcut to it on my (classic view) Start Menu, so that it's immediately available if I need it.

Be aware that using CharMap does have two very distinct disadvantages:

First, to be used correctly, you need to switch it to whatever font you happen to be writing/editing in at the moment, which -- on a system with a couple of hundred fonts on it -- can be rather time consuming!

And Second, after selecting the correct font, you do need to (tediously) peruse the table of characters to hunt out the character you need -- which may (or may not!) be a hunt in vain, since not every font has every available character. If you happen to be using a font which omits the character you need, you're out of luck -- all you can do is switch to some other, more complete, font!

Still, if the latter's the case, CharMap's your quickest and most definitive way of finding that out! And if you don't want to mess around with memorizing "ALT" codes, CharMap's "point-&-click" interface can't be beat.      :)

Tom Abisalih
October 13, 2009 9:19 AM

In Windows XP some of the more common characters like accents (), , tilde (), section (), etc. can be more intuitvely key-struck by setting your keyboard to "United States-International".

Go to the Regional and Language Options control panel, click Details on the Languages tab, and on the Settings tab you should be able to select or add this keyboard in the Installed services window.

After a little trial and error you can find and strike most of these characters using the ALT key on the right-hand side and the letter that most resembles the character. You may need to add the SHIFT key as well. For example I get the section symbol () by hitting RightALT-SHIFT-S.

jojo villaluz
October 14, 2009 4:57 PM

Thanks Leo your articles are all so informative. May I ask how about the combination keys for a peso sign, thanks again...

linda larkin
October 17, 2009 8:42 AM

i typed ALT 0128 and got some weird character like a piece of a corner. i was in an AOL email. but when i type it here it shows properly.

Anne Ramirez
November 23, 2009 10:25 PM

Hi!! i need some help... May i ask the combination code of philippine peso sign in keyboard using microsoft word... thank you...

Darren Clarisse De Vera
April 19, 2010 10:10 PM

how to type a peso sign

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