How to make special characters with a qwerty keyboard

Written by antonin korenek
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How to make special characters with a qwerty keyboard
The most common way of inserting special characters involves using the ALT key and a series of numbers. (keyboard image by Fyerne from

While the QWERTY keyboard has about 40 keys for imputing different characters, there are actually about 200 other symbols that can be used by many programs where you can input text. These characters include everything from smiley faces to Japanese yen (¥) and Euro sign (€) symbols. Certain programs have tools and options for inserting these characters, but the quickest, most effective way to use these characters is the "ALT + Number" method that works for all programs.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Open a word processing program such as Microsoft Office or Open Office.

  2. 2

    Enable the Num Pad by pressing the "Num Lock" key on the keyboard. If the Num Pad is enabled, the "Num Lock" light on the keyboard will turn on.

  3. 3

    Hold down the ALT key and press a series of numbers. See the links under "Resources" for a large list of possible characters and their corresponding number codes.

  4. 4

    Let go of the ALT key; a special character should appear on your screen. For example, ALT and the number 0174 should create this character: ®

Tips and warnings

  • Some laptops do not have separate Num Pads and will require holding the "Fn" key down as well. This will enable a pseudo Num Pad, which is often located on the right side of the keyboard within the alphabet keys. If there are no numbers present within these keys, then the only way to insert special characters is through a word processing program or "copy and pasting" them from a document or website such as the one listed under "Resources".
  • Not all word processing programs or Internet browsers will recognise every ALT character.

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