Can you copy this line?

If not, sharpen your symbol skills with Sandy's help.

Have you ever noticed that the computer keyboard doesn't include symbols like the cent sign , the degree sign or the registered symbol? Yet these symbols are fairly easy to insert into computer documents. That is if you know how to find them.

Windows Character Map

You can find the cent sign as well as the degree sign and other useful symbols in the Windows Character Map.  You can also use this tool to insert characters that don't exist in the English language.

From the Start Menu, choose Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Character Map. Once in the Character Map, you can find a variety of symbols by selecting different fonts when you click on the down arrow in the Font area. Click on the symbol you want, click on Select, then click Copy. Go back to the program that you are working in and choose Edit – Paste to paste the symbol into your document. For easy access, you can keep the Character Map window open as you type.

Some programs will also allow you to access the Character Map from within the program itself. For example, when working in Microsoft Word, click on Insert, then choose Symbol, and the Character Map will pop up. Current versions of Word allow you to simplify the process even more by choosing the symbol you want and clicking on Insert without the Copy and Paste efforts.

Symbols Screen Shot

Installing Character Map

If you don't see the Character Map, it probably has not yet been installed.  Click on Start, Settings, Control Panel. Click on Add/Remove Programs. Then click on the Windows Setup tab. Scroll down, choose System Tools, and double-click. A window with more choices will now pop up. Place a checkmark in the box in front of Character Map. Click OK twice, and the Character Map will be installed. (The Windows CD-ROM may be needed.)

Apple Key Caps

If you are using a Mac, you can find different characters by using the Key Caps application found under the Apple menu. By pressing various keys, like the Option and Apple keys, Key Caps will show you all the characters contained in a particular font.

Windows Shortcut Keys

On the Windows Character Map, you will also see a small button marked Shortcut Key. When you highlight any character in the map and click on the Shortcut Key button, a window will pop up that will show you the current shortcut key combination that Windows has assigned to the key. For instance, highlight the copyright sign ¬, click on Shortcut Key, and you will see that, unless you have changed it, the current Windows shortcut is Alt+Ctrl+C. If you would like to change the shortcut combination, just click your mouse in the box marked Press new shortcut key and simultaneously press the new shortcut key combination that you would like to use. You can assign any key combination to any symbol in this way, making it easy to access the symbol keys that you use often.

Customize Keyboard Screen Shot

Sample Shortcut Key Combinations





Ctrl + / + C








Windows ALT Key

Another way to access special characters in Windows is to press the Alt key. While holding it down, press the numbers listed in the chart below in succession on the numeric keypad. When you release the Alt key, the symbol listed next to that number will appear.

On the Mac you press the Option key and another particular key simultaneously. Release both at the same time, then press another key, as shown in the chart below. While this may sound slightly difficult, it is actually much easier to use and to remember than the Windows counterpart.






Alt + 164

Option+n then N


Alt + 165

Option+n then n


Alt + 0224

Option+` then a


Alt + 0225

Option+e then a


Alt + 0232

Option+` then e


Alt + 0233

Option+e then e


Alt + 0200

Option+e then E


Alt + 0242

Option+e then o


Alt + 0243

Option+e then O

Learn the shortcut key combination for the symbols that you use often, and use the Windows Character Map or the Apple Key Caps for those that you use only occasionally. You may find that working with symbols can also be fun. Here are just a few of the unusual symbols that you can find.