How to Use Symbols on a Keyboard

Written by richard kalinowski
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How to Use Symbols on a Keyboard
With the Character Map, you can use special mathematical symbols. (John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Your computer is capable of using thousands of special symbols. These symbols are accessed using the "Windows Character Map," or through special keyboard commands called "Alt Codes." Once you know how to use the symbols, you can create word processing documents in foreign languages, solve complex equations using symbols and insert emoticon symbols into e-mails. Finding the right symbol takes a few minutes, but once you locate the symbol you can quickly recall it at any point in the future.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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  1. 1

    Click on the Windows "Start" button.

  2. 2

    Type "Character Map" into the blank field at the bottom of the "Start" menu.

  3. 3

    Click on "Character Map" to open the program. A window appears, displaying all the special symbols on your computer. (See References 1)

  4. 4

    Scroll the list and click on the symbol you want to use. There are literally thousands of symbols, but you can save time searching by looking for common symbol "groups." For example, Greek symbols are all grouped together on the list, as are most other special characters.

  5. 5

    Click "Select" and "Copy" to place the symbol onto your clipboard. You can now paste the symbol into any program by pressing "Ctrl" and "V" on your keyboard. (See References 2)

  6. 6

    Write down the "Alt Code" located in the lower right-hand corner of the screen for future use. To use this code, you simply hold down the "Alt" key and type in the numeric sequence using your keyboard's 10-key. "Alt Codes" provide quick recall of commonly used symbols, inserting the symbol automatically after the code is entered.

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