Concise Directory of Available Symbols

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 28, 2016)

A number of symbols can be accessed by pressing Alt and the symbol's corresponding number on the numeric keypad (such as Alt+171 for the one-half symbol). You may be wondering if there is a handy directory of all the "symbol numbers" that can be used to produce different characters in this manner.

The important thing to remember is that this technique doesn't actually insert symbols. What it does is provide a quick way to add a character in a specific font. For instance, typing Alt+171 doesn't really insert the one-half symbol; it inserts the character corresponding to the ANSI code 171. What character is represented by that code depends on the font in use at the current time. In many fonts that character may, indeed, be a one-half symbol, but in other fonts it may be something entirely different.

There are many different resources you can use to discover what ANSI codes can be used to produce different characters. If you are looking for a printed reference, any good programming book should include an appendix that contains either ASCII or ANSI codes. There are also a number of resources available online. The following are some suggested by WordTips readers, in no particular order:

http://www.ajmoreau.com/altcodes.html
http://symbolcodes.tlt.psu.edu/accents/codealt.html
http://www.topurlz.com/alt_key_table.htm
http://tools.oratory.com/altcodes.html

You can also download various character charts from Microsoft, at this address:

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/help/ascii-character-chart-HA001133136.aspx

Another handy tool, created by Jon Peltier, is the workbook at this address:

http://peltiertech.com/Excel/Zips/ascii.zip

The workbook contains a sheet of all ASCII character codes from Alt+0033 to Alt+0255 in four fonts of your choosing. If you don't see a character you like, you can click on the floating menu and select up to four new fonts.

If you have a symbol that you use quite often, you might find it useful to just create an AutoCorrect entry for the symbol. Word makes this easy; all you need to do is use Insert | Symbol, locate and select the symbol you want, and then click on the AutoCorrect button. Word displays the AutoCorrect dialog box where you can specify what you want to type that will result in the symbol being inserted.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (206) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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