Picture of Special Characters on Your Computer
This Instructable will show two ways to get special characters into your computer generated documents and e-mails. While many already know how to do this, I have encountered people with many hours of Windows computer experience who were surprised and delighted to know this is possible. It was a new revelation to them. 

There are no special materials or tools needed, other than your computer. I will demonstrate from my Windows 7 laptop. The process is the same on other operating systems, although some screens may have a slightly different appearance. I am not familiar with Apple products and how they do this.

Step 1: The Character Map

Picture of The Character Map
Windows has the Character Map. It is one way to get special characters. It works fairly well if you need only one or two special characters per document. But, if you need more than that, it not the best way. I will illustrate its use for those who choose to use it.

(First graphic) The easy way to find the Character Map on Windows 7 OS is to click on the Start button and begin typing "character map" in the box marked "Search programs and files." In the graphic you can see it also appears in the list of recently used programs because I did open it for preparing this Instructable. 

(Second graphic) Click on "Character Map" in the list of returns, and Windows will take you to the Character Map.

(Third graphic) This is the Character Map. Use the pull down menu at the top of the dialog box to select the font you wish to use. Here it is Times New Roman. Scroll down the available characters to find the character you need. Click on it. The letter displays in enlarged size in a box. Some characters are similar. To double check that your selection is the desired character, look at the bottom line in the dialog box for the name of the character. This one is the Cyrillic Capital Letter De from the Russian alphabet. Click on Select and then on Copy. You may place more than one character in the window before clicking on the Copy button, if you need that. Go to your document and paste the computer's clipboard into the document. The Character Map contains alphabets and symbols for quite a number of languages.
Neat. Didn't know Windows had a Character Map. I've used the table you get under Insert/symbols in Microsoft Word the same way.

Here are more details on using ASCII codes to get symbols (the business of typing ALT#### to get a symbol....):

To display special characters in web messages:

1. Make sure NumLock is on.
2. Holding down ALT-key, type code for character from table.
3. Use numeric keypad.
4. Include leading zero.

('non-keyboard' characters start around 0131; non-English @ 0191 on....)

English Language Characters
033 -- !
034 -- "
035 -- #
036 -- $
037 -- %
038 -- &
039 -- '
040 -- (
041 -- )
042 -- *
043 -- +
044 -- ,
045 -- -
046 -- .
047 -- /
048 -- 0
049 -- 1
050 -- 2
051 -- 3
052 -- 4
053 -- 5
054 -- 6
055 -- 7
056 -- 8
057 -- 9
058 -- :
059 -- ;
060 -- <
061 -- =
062 -- >
063 -- ?
064 -- @
065 -- A
066 -- B
067 -- C
068 -- D
069 -- E
070 -- F
071 -- G
072 -- H
073 -- I
074 -- J
075 -- K
076 -- L
077 -- M
078 -- N
079 -- O
080 -- P
081 -- Q
082 -- R
083 -- S
084 -- T
085 -- U
086 -- V
087 -- W
088 -- X
089 -- Y
090 -- Z
091 -- [
092 -- \
093 -- ]
094 -- ^
095 -- _
096 -- `
097 -- a
098 -- b
099 -- c
0100 -- d
0101 -- e
0102 -- f
0103 -- g
0104 -- h
0105 -- i
0106 -- j
0107 -- k
0108 -- l
0109 -- m
0110 -- n
0111 -- o
0112 -- p
0113 -- q
0114 -- r
0115 -- s
0116 -- t
0117 -- u
0118 -- v
0119 -- w
0120 -- x
0121 -- y
0122 -- z
0123 -- {
0124 -- |
0125 -- }
0126 -- ~
0130 -- ‚
0131 -- ƒ
0132 -- „
0133 -- …
0134 -- †
0135 -- ‡
0136 -- ˆ
0137 -- ‰
0138 -- Š
0139 -- ‹
0140 -- Œ
0142 -- Ž
0145 -- '
0146 -- '
0147 -- "
0148 -- "
0149 -- o
0150 -- -
0151 -- -
0152 -- ˜
0153 -- ™
0154 -- š
0155 -- ›
0156 -- œ
0158 -- ž
0159 -- Ÿ
0161 -- ¡
0162 -- ¢
0163 -- £
0164 -- ¤
0165 -- ¥
0166 -- ¦
0167 -- §
0168 -- ¨
0169 -- ©
0170 -- ª
0171 -- «
0172 --
0173 -- ­
0174 -- ®
0175 -- ¯
0176 -- °
0177 -- ±
0178 -- ²
0179 -- ³
0180 -- ´
0181 -- µ
0182 --
0183 -- ·
0184 -- ¸
0185 -- ¹
0186 -- º
0187 -- »
0188 -- ¼
0189 -- ½
0190 -- ¾

Non-English Language Characters

0191 -- ¿
0192 -- À
0193 -- Á
0194 -- Â
0195 -- Ã
0196 -- Ä
0197 -- Å
0198 -- Æ
0199 -- Ç
0200 -- È
0201 -- É
0202 -- Ê
0203 -- Ë
0204 -- Ì
0205 -- Í
0206 -- Î
0207 -- Ï
0208 -- Ð
0209 -- Ñ
0210 -- Ò
0211 -- Ó
0212 -- Ô
0213 -- Õ
0214 -- Ö
0215 -- ×
0216 -- Ø
0217 -- Ù
0218 -- Ú
0219 -- Û
0220 -- Ü
0221 -- Ý
0222 -- Þ
0223 -- ß
0224 -- à
0225 -- á
0226 -- â
0227 -- ã
0228 -- ä
0229 -- å
0230 -- æ
0231 -- ç
0232 -- è
0233 -- é
0234 -- ê
0235 -- ë
0236 -- ì
0237 -- í
0238 -- î
0239 -- ï
0240 -- ð
0241 -- ñ
0242 -- ò
0243 -- ó
0244 -- ô
0245 -- õ
0246 -- ö
0247 -- ÷
0248 -- ø
0249 -- ù
0250 -- ú
0251 -- û
0252 -- ü
0253 -- ý
0254 -- þ
0255 -- ÿ

"ASCII", btw, stands for "American Standard Code for Information Interchange," a term rich in computer history trivia. Google it if interested....
Phil B (author)  donquixote992 years ago
Thank you for the information.
I have a Spanish keyboard. The good about this is I have access to all Spanish, French, Portuguese and many other languages characters and also to the English ones. But recently I moved to England and I started to miss one character I needed to use a lot but was absent from my Spanish keyboard: the symbol for Sterling Pounds (£).
There is a program by Microsoft called Keyboard Layout Creator (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/goglobal/bb964665.aspx) that allows you to take a keyboard layout and modify it to create a new one so I used this program and added the starling pounds symbol to the combination Alt Gr + L (it makes sense since it already has the Euro symbol in Alt Gr + E).

In the same way you can add all those umlaut letters to your UK/US keyboard (maybe Alt Gr + U for ü, Alt Gr + S for ß, etc). You could even set this keyboard as your primary keyboard since it would still have all the characters you normally use in English and the German ones without interference between them.

And the best of all is you are not patching the system or taking valuable resources since all you are doing is adding one keyboard layout to the list of standard layouts.
Phil B (author)  jedikalimero2 years ago
Thank you for the information. One of the great things about the Instructables site is that someone's submission may not have all of the answers or information, but it opens a discussion where others share their knowledge.
Bill WW2 years ago
Another, easier, way to add special characters, like foreign letters when using MS Word:

If you click on "Insert Symbol", you will be taken to a character map, you choose the character, it will be inserted into your document. After you have used "Inset Symbol" a few times, the characters you use most often will be shown first. Then it becomes really simple.

The problem I have with character maps is they show every symbol known to Microsoft, which is thousands. So most of the work is finding the right characters the first time.
rwindig2 years ago
Or, for umlaut characters you just type "u, "a, "o, etc. Works in most places.
I tend to find it easier to use the Alt codes if they're enabled on the computer I'm using, since it's both easier to memorize and faster than switching between keyboards to enter the occasional special character.
Phil B (author)  mettaurlover2 years ago
I did not write this for the person who uses an occasional character, but for the person who wants to compose a document in another language in which he or she is fluent enough to write and needs special characters regularly and often.
Well, it's still easier to simply memorize the alt codes for the language you want than it is to learn an entirely new keyboard layout, and by occasional I mean the special characters found in most languages with a fairly similar alphabet, which are still comprised mostly of the characters on a QWERTY keyboard.
LeumasYrrep2 years ago
For OS X users you can insert special characters using: Edit -> Special Characters
Sometimes the keyboard shortcut: Option Command T (Alt Clover T) works. This shortcut works for Chrome but when I open Pages it does not so the keyboard shortcut appears to be selective in its functionality.

If you are using iOS you have to enable additional keyboard languages. Settings -> General -> Keyboard -> International Keyboards. When you go to type you can switch between keyboards using the globe that appears on the keyboard. I used this to get the Greek alphabet for typing equations.
hold down your ALT key and type a 4 digit number and you can do many of these ☻'δ°▼ö▀
Phil B (author)  alaskanbychoice2 years ago
Perhaps I am missing something. I tried this in Notepad, but nothing happened.
I type it here just as I explained. Hold the ALT key at the same time type 9966 to get ε, ALT+ 6659 =♥
Phil B (author)  alaskanbychoice2 years ago
OK. Thanks. It seems a user could memorize certain combinations he used very frequently, but it would be quite a task to memorize the number combinations for more than a few special characters.
This is very true.
Phil B (author)  alaskanbychoice2 years ago
Many icon characters, like hearts and so on, are available in a word processor by selecting Webdings or Wingdings fonts.
I tried to put 5 stars for your instructable, but it only posted 4.5 I have windows xp, so the instructions didn't work for me :0(, but I still enjoyed reading your post. BTW, is there a button for British spelling rather that USA?
On all versions of windows from Windows 95 through XP :

- Click on the start button
- Click on the "Run" field
- Enter charmap.exe
- Click OK.

(Note: on 95,98, Me & 2000 the character map was an optional tool, installed by default but you  could untick it during the windows install procedure)

On Vista & 7, click on the orb, and enter charmap.exe in the search files or folders and wait for the system to display it in the list
Phil B (author)  porcupinemamma2 years ago

The star rating system lags your input. If you rate something at 5 stars it registers 4.09 stars. A bunch of people need to post 5 stars before the displayed rating begins to approach an actual 5 stars.

It is possible to set up alternate keyboards on Windows XP. You still go through the Control Panel, as well as Region and Languages. I have done it, but do not remember the exact screens. I think once you get to Region and Languages the process is pretty much the same.

As concerns British spellings, you probably need to specify the British Isles as your home when you initially set up the computer. Then its spell check will load the proper dictionary.

As regards setting up an alternate keyboard in Windows XP, I just checked and the process is similar. Go to Start > Control Panel > Regional and Language Options. In the dialog box click on the middle tab, which is Languages, then click on the Details button. In the dialog box that appears next click on Add and select the extra keyboard you would like to add. Click on all needed OK and Apply buttons as you exit. It is very similar, even if some of the names of the levels are slightly different.
TechGadgets2 years ago
Try ALT + 255 to get a character looking like a space, which can be often used where a space can't (eg to create 'empty' input field :p)

Good instructable btw. I have a german keyboard, so äöü (ae,oe,ue) are no problem, but this will come handy for greek letters like alpha (α).
Bill WW2 years ago
Thanks Phil, did not know about the second method.

I often compose things in MS Word, then copy and paste to other destinations such as Instructables. In MS Word, here are methods I use for Spanish characters:

Accented vowels (Í, é, ó) : hold down ctrl key, press " (quotation mark) key, then the letter.

To type ñ, hold down the Shift key, then the Control key, then the ~ key. Release all three keys, then type n.

To type ¿ (the inverted question mark) Alt-Ctrl-Shift-/

To type ¡ (the inverted exclamation point) Alt-Ctrl-Shift-1

Here is a good website for typing foregn characters in Word:
Bill WW Bill WW2 years ago
Now realize pasting the foreign characters into Instructables does not work well. Looks like I have a project here.
Phil B (author)  Bill WW2 years ago

Mikeasaurus said the editorial staff at Instructables is working on the special characters problem, but things are still in process.
IzNoGuD2 years ago
Hi Phil,

You can also use:
oe =ö
and sz=ß

every native german speaker will understand the old writing for these characters.
IzNoGuD IzNoGuD2 years ago
sh*t i failed :)
Phil B (author)  IzNoGuD2 years ago
As mikeasaurus mentioned, the Instructables page does not yet handle symbols well. Thank you for your attempt. I have always appreciated German speakers for their forgiving attitude toward those of us who try to speak their language, but do so imperfectly. As I mentioned, I know I can add "e" after a vowel to represent an umlaut. It is just so much nicer to be able to make a real umlaut. Tschüß!
rimar20002 years ago
This is a very useful info, Phil! Thanks for sharing it.

In my W7 Starter the character map it a bit hidden, but using the Help I managed to find it. I was curious about the ♫ character.

Now I am glad to have it at hand! ♫♫♫.
Phil B (author)  rimar20002 years ago
In Windows XP and before the Character Map was in System Tools within Accessories. Using the search box made finding it easy in Windows 7. Thanks, Osvaldo.
Now I have a desktop icon!!
Phil B (author)  rimar20002 years ago
That will help very much in the future.
mikeasaurus2 years ago
Great Instructable, Phil.
Special characters can also be made in many Microsoft programs by holing down the alt key with a 3 or 4 digit combination. I mostly just the the 'character map', as you explain in Step 1.

(a side note: Special characters don't agree with the Instructable site right now (but we're working on it!, use them in the editor at your own risk!)
Phil B (author)  mikeasaurus2 years ago
Thanks. I am always amazed at the variety of ways Microsoft programmers have provided to accomplish the same task. It is not often I need a special character at Instructables, although at times more of the characters associated with electrical symbols would be helpful. The umlauts do work from the special keyboard configuration when typing within Instructables.
ChrysN2 years ago
That is cool thanks for posting, I've never known how to do that. I'll show my mom, she corresponds to her friends in German often.
Phil B (author)  ChrysN2 years ago
I am glad it is useful to you and to your mother. The ä umlaut uses the '/" key. The ö umlaut uses the ;/: key. The ü umlaut uses the [/{ key. Freundliche Grüsse an Ihre Mutter!
OH SNAP!2 years ago
this is cool! i never knew this

but can you also explain the Private Character editor?
Phil B (author)  OH SNAP!2 years ago
I am glad to have been of help. The Private Character editor is something of which I had never heard. I have now learned it is for making and saving some special character you want to plant into your documents through the Character Map, like a cattle brand you designed, or a personal monogram. I did find a tutorial here, but I have not really looked at it. Thank you for the new information.