Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
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:
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:
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.