Using ASCII and ANSI Characters

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 31, 2013)

Word allows you to add just about any character you can think of to your document. You add most characters by using the keyboard or by choosing Symbol from the Insert menu or, in Word 2007, choosing Symbol from the Symbols group on the Insert tab of the ribbon. Regardless of how you enter a character, Word tracks each one internally using a special numeric code. This code is necessary because computers can only understand numbers, not actual alphabetic characters. This numeric code is called either the ASCII or ANSI code.

In small computers, the code most often used is called ASCII, which is an acronym for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. It is a code comprised of 128 symbols assigned to the values 0 through 127. For instance, the letter A is represented in the computer by the number 65.

If you know the ASCII code for a particular character, and you want to enter it into your document, you can do so by holding down the Alt key and pressing the three-digit code on the numeric keypad. For instance, the ASCII code for an uppercase A is 65. You could enter this character by holding down the Alt key and pressing 065 on the numeric keypad. (Remember, you need to use a three-digit code.) Word responds by displaying the character on your screen.

A variation on the ASCII code is referred to as the ANSI code. (ANSI is an acronym for the American National Standards Institute.) The ANSI code can be considered a superset of ASCII, because it can represent many more characters than can be represented with the ASCII code. Remember that plain ASCII can represent only 128 characters. From a technical standpoint, this is because each character is represented using a single byte of data storage. ANSI, on the other hand, uses two bytes for storing each character, and can therefore be used to represent approximately 65,000 characters. The added flexibility provided by the ANSI code is necessary in today's international market for software.

ANSI characters are entered in your document in a similar fashion to ASCII codes. You hold down the Alt key, but instead use a four-digit code. For instance, if you wanted to insert the symbol for the British pound, you would hold down the Alt key and press 0163 (the four-digit code) on the numeric keypad. Word responds by placing the character in your document.

If you need to know more about either the ASCII or ANSI codes, any good programmer's reference will provide the information you need.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1359) 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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