Friday, February 29, 2008

Inserting non-standard characters in Word using ALT-number pad

A while back I wrote a couple of articles about inserting non-keyboard symbols in Word using the Insert Symbol function, and also by using some default shortcuts.

Now we get onto the real voodoo - using ALT and the number pad to produce some non-standard characters. You do have a number pad, don't you? That was one of the essential features I insisted on when I got my Toshiba laptop - unless you REALLY need high portability, you ARE going to miss the number pad at times...

How to use ALT and the number pad to produce non-keyboard characters
All the characters you need CAN be inserted into your document using the Insert Symbol function in Word - say the ² (squared) symbol, the µ (Mu or micro) symbol, or the ¼ and other basic fractions. But what if you use them frequently? You don't want to have to go into Insert symbol every time.

Well, this is how you do it: first go into Insert symbol and select one of the above-mentioned symbols (this is by way of example - not all the symbols are inserted this way, so choose one of those for now). Click on the symbol once, say µ . At the bottom it says: Shortcut key: Alt+0181. What's that all about?

It means:

1) Make sure the NUM LOCK light is lit on your keyboard - if not, press it once to activate the number keypad
2) Press the LEFT "ALT" key (it doesn't work with the right!) and hold it down.
3) While still holding the left ALT key, type 0181 in sequence on the number pad (it only works on the keypad too!)
4) Let go of the ALT key and... the µ symbol magically appears!

Other ALT codes
Many other symbols have these codes, and believe it or not, you CAN learn these by heart if you use them fairly regularly - you don't want to have to go back to Insert symbol every time, after all, that would defeat the object somewhat! I have a number of these codes that I use without thinking, such as the „ and ” I need in Serbian - you can't get those via the keyboard.

Here are a few more symbol ALT codes:

½ (half symbol) - ALT+0189
¾ (three-quarters symbol) - ALT+0190
÷ (division sign) - ALT+0247
† (dagger) - ALT+0134
§ (section) - ALT+0167
± (plus-minus) - ALT+0177
¥ (Yen) - ALT+0165

Oh, and I'll let you into a little secret! These shortcuts are not exclusive to Word - in fact they work in all Microsoft and most Windows programs. In fact, I used them to type the symbols here.

Thanks for tuning in to Word Tips World again, and for letting us into your inbox if you are an email subscriber. Stay tuned, for one more bit of symbol-inserting voodoo, coming soon!

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