Symbols and Special Characters in Windows & Office

Want to spell Françoise’s or Hélène’s name correctly on a welcome letter? Need to use the Euro sign (€) on your price sheet? Read on to learn all about inserting symbols and special characters in your documents and files!

Selecting symbols within Office 2010, 2007 or 2003: Word, Excel and PowerPoint

Inserting symbols is very simple and consistent in new versions of the Office applications. Word also offers a small pop-up menu showing recently-used symbols in version 2007 or later.

  1. [Click] in the document where the symbol is to be inserted.
  2. From the INSERT tab, from the SYMBOLS group, [Click] the SYMBOL button.
    (In Office 2003, choose INSERT, SYMBOLS…)
  3. In Word 2007/2010: From the pop-up menu of recently-used symbols:
  • If shown, [Click] the preferred symbol.
  • If not shown, [Click] MORE SYMBOLS…
  • If the symbol was used recently, it will appear in the RECENTLY USED SYMBOLS list at the bottom of the dialog.
  • If you need a special symbol (like a mathematical one or a pictogram) choose a symbolic font such as SYMBOL or WINGDINGS – otherwise, select the font used in adjacent text.
  1. Locate the preferred symbol.
  2. [Click] the preferred symbol and [click] the INSERT button or [double-click] the preferred symbol.
  3. Repeat steps 4 and 5 as necessary.
  4. [Click] the CLOSE button.

Selecting symbols for any application

Here is a general procedure that works in any program:

  1. [Click] your Windows Start menu.
  3. Choose ACCESSORIES.
  4. If necessary, choose SYSTEM TOOLS.
  5. [Click] the CHARACTER MAP menu item.
  6. If you need a special symbol (like a mathematical one or a pictogram) choose a symbolic font, such as SYMBOL or WINGDINGS.
  7. [Click] the preferred symbol and [Click] the SELECT button or [Double-Click] the preferred symbol.
  8. Repeat steps 6 and 7, if necessary.
  9. [Click] the COPY button.

Entering symbols by keyboard code for any application

Many of the accented characters and a number of special symbols can be produced by a three or four digit code sequence in Windows. This process assumes you know the code for the symbol, that you’ve memorized it, or you have a cheat sheet handy. To determine the code, use the Character Map applet tool (see Selecting symbols for any application, above). When you [Click] a symbol, the code, if applicable, is shown at the bottom of the Character Map window in the Status Bar. For instance, when the trademark symbol is selected, the status bar reads “Keystroke: Alt+0153”.

To create the special character:

  1. Ensure the numeric keypad is active (i.e. <NumLock> is on).
  2. Hold the <Alt> key down.
  3. Enter the 3 or 4 digit sequence via the numeric keypad.
  4. Release the <Alt> key.

Note: The digits in the top row of the keyboard area are not used; only the digit keys in the numeric keypad will work. The 3 or 4 digit sequence must be entered fairly quickly, without any long delays.

Some of the more common 4 digit sequences are listed here for your reference. Remember to hold <Alt> while pressing these codes. And note, the zero is required:

¢       cent                               0162                é          e acute lowercase       0233

€       Euro                              0128                è          e grave                         0232

¥       Yen                                0165                É          E acute uppercase      0201

—     em dash                        0151                È          E grave                        0200

–       en dash                         0150                ë          e trema                         0235

°       degree                           0176                à          a grave                          0224

©      copyright                       0169                â          a circumflex                  0226

®      registered                      0174                ç          c cedilla                        0231

¼      one quarter                   0188                ö          o umlaut                       0246

½      one half                         0189                ñ          n tilde                           0241

“       curly open quote            0147                «          French open quote      0171

”       curly close quote           0148                »          French close quote      0187

Try it! This technique is handy in your webmail, non-Microsoft products, or if jotting some text into Windows Notepad.

Keyboard shortcuts in Word

Word (but not the other Office apps) offers a special high-speed method for generating accented characters. As well, there are some dedicated keyboard shortcuts for special symbols. These may be worth committing to memory if you use Word frequently.

To “build” an accented character:

Hold the <Ctrl> key down.

  1. Press the key that “resembles” the accent symbol.
    – for accent acute (à), press the < ’ > key (apostrophe)
    – for accent grave (é), press the < ` > key (“backwards” apostrophe)
    – for accent carat (ê), press <Shift -^>
    – for the tilde accent (ñ), press <Shift-~>
    – for the trema or umlaut (ë), press <Shift-:>
    – for cedilla (ç), press the < , > key (comma)
  2. Release the <Ctrl> key.
  3. If necessary, hold the <Shift> key down, for an upper case letter.
  4. Press the letter to be accented.

Note: Delays in pressing keys in sequence will cause it to not work.

Try it! It sounds complicated but it is rather easy. And there is a visual aspect to the process that makes it generally memorable: you’re making an accent that “looks” like an existing symbol on the keyboard.

To produce a special symbol by Word keyboard shortcut:

©      copyright                       <Ctrl-Alt-C >
–        non-breaking hyphen     <Ctrl-Shift- _>
“  ”   non-breaking space       <Ctrl -Shift-Spacebar>

To learn other key sequences, access the SYMBOL dialog inside Word (noted above) and [Click] on the SPECIAL CHARACTERS tab.


1 thought on “Symbols and Special Characters in Windows & Office

  1. This is great, how fun! And thanks for doing that to share with all of us (I aculatly tried to handdraw a few words like you a few days ago). Did you do it through Fonts for Peas’ or some other font design program? Is it a true type font (.ttf)? I totally plan on buying it before the weekend’s out (in the middle of moving now and husband has all our credit cards & stuff somewhere else right now).Was just curious if this is like any other font download, like say via One can still kern in photoshop & whatnot? I’d love to see the character pallet a little bigger too! Anyway, sorry about the long comment- this was an exciting post!PS- I especially love your pretty, loopy/swirly letters & symbols (M & A etc.)!

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