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Changing Characters on Keyboard Keys

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Changing Characters on Keyboard Keys.

Robert would like to reassign keyboard keys to be more efficient for his needs. For example, he would like to reassign the {braces} keys to return a section mark and a pilcrow (paragraph mark), respectively. These are used extensively in his law firm, and having them accessible from the keyboard would be wonderful. There are a couple of other keys that Robert would like to reassign, as well, so he wonders how he can go about making the reassignments.

There are a couple of ways you can go about this, depending on whether you want the change to be available only in Word or whether you want it available in other programs, as well. Let's start with the scenario where you want the change only in Word.

Word provides a couple of tools that may be helpful. For instance, the AutoCorrect feature is used to automatically change something you typed into something you should have typed. (In other words, it automatically corrects what you type.) You could, if desired, create an AutoCorrect entry that will change the brace characters into the desired characters. The problem is that AutoCorrect is only triggered if you press a space after the thing that needs to be changed. Thus, if you had an AutoCorrect entry that changed the left brace to a section mark, then it would only be triggered if you pressed the left brace followed by a space. If you wanted the section mark followed immediately by a number, then typing {17 would not result in a correction to the desired section mark—Word would leave it unchanged.

The other tool that would be more helpful in this instance is the ability to assign shortcut keys to special characters. Follow these steps:

  1. Choose Symbol from the Insert menu. Word displays the Symbol dialog box.
  2. Locate and click once on the section mark.
  3. Click on the Shortcut Key button. Word displays the Customize Keyboard dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Customize Keyboard dialog box.

  5. Click once in the Press New Shortcut Key box.
  6. Press either Alt+{ or Ctrl+{, depending on which shortcut you want to use to insert the section mark.
  7. Click on Assign.
  8. Close the Customize Keyboard dialog box.
  9. In the Symbol dialog box, locate and click once on the pilcrow symbol.
  10. Click on the Shortcut Key button. Word again displays the Customize Keyboard dialog box.
  11. Click once in the Press New Shortcut Key box.
  12. Press either Alt+} or Ctrl+}, depending on which shortcut you want to use to insert the section mark.
  13. Click on Assign.
  14. Close the Customize Keyboard dialog box.
  15. Close the Symbol dialog box.

Now you can use the shortcut keys you created in order to insert the desired symbols. Of course, if you didn't want to create the special shortcut keys (perhaps they are already assigned to some other purpose on your system), you can always enter the symbols by holding down the Alt key and pressing 20 (pilcrow) or 21 (section mark) on the numeric keypad.

Outside of Word there are any number of keyboard remapping utilities you can install on your system. Some are free and cost money. Even Microsoft has one call the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator, which you can find here:


Third-party programs in this category abound; here are a few:


You can locate a plethora of other such utilities if you do a search for the phrase "remap keyboard" or "map keyboard".

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10303) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Changing Characters on Keyboard Keys.

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Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!


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