Symbols and icons are everywhere. From expressions to a legal document, they are adding functionality with a visual representation. Often people find it difficult to insert a simple symbol in a word document where it is very easy to enter. These Microsoft documents use “alt codes” to directly insert the symbols in the text.

Let’s talk a little about what the alt code is and can they be used to simplify the typing process.

What are alt codes?

Alt codes are a shortcut to making complicated symbols on your document especially the symbols that are not available on the keyboard. The user holds the alt key on the keyboard while entering a numeric code form the numeric pad on the keyboard. Make sure to turn on the num lock when entering the alt code. There are a number of alt codes meant to enter different codes on different documents. Alt codes work on computers running Microsoft Windows operating system. On IBM compatible PCs many alt codes might not work. Therefore, it has Unicode to display the different symbols on the screen.

Inserting symbols have not been a difficult task before either, but it took much time. You had to go to the insert option to enter a specific symbol, but with alt codes, it is made easy for the users to simply insert a code while pressing the alt key and the symbol will appear on the screen. For example, if you need to enter a check mark on the screen, you can simply press the check mark alt code, and the check mark will appear— however, there are six different check marks codes that you must know about. The only problem here is that you need to know the correct code to have the check mark you need on your list.

Word users often do not know how easy it has become to insert a special character since this article is about alt codes, it is understood that one of the ways is through the alt codes. Apart from that, there are three more ways to do it. You can simply use the insert option in the ribbon, automatically enter it with the help of autocorrect, or through shortcut keys.

When using Microsoft office, it is rather easy to select the desired symbol or special characters via insert option. You can choose the symbol option in insert bar. Selecting “more symbols” option in the bar, a dialogue box will appear from where you can have the symbol that you need in the text.­­ The symbol option also has other options where you can assign a customized shortcut key for a particular symbol for example if you need the “em dash” you can simply enter Alt+Ctrl+Num-. Moreover, the insert option also allows you to insert options from the autocorrect, for example, if you need a copyright symbol special character in your text, you can customize the auto correct section according to your desired options to automatically change the characters into symbols.

How to use alt codes on windows?

Alt codes or the direct keypad entry is one of the oldest ways as well as the most dependable one in word. You can enter a special character by entering a code through the numeric pad along while pressing the Alt key on the keyboard. The ANSI character set includes the standard ASCII character set values from 0 to 127 and an extended character set of values 128 to 255. The first 32 positions (0-31) are reserved for functions like Escape, backspace, tab, line feed and so on. As said above, if you know the code of the symbol you need you can enter it by pressing and holding the Alt button while entering the code of the symbol.

The benefit of using the alt code is that it is available on every windows application and not just word. The question that appears is how do you get to know about the codes on the different applications? The answer is quite simple! All the short cut key codes are available in the symbol dialogue box telling you the different codes that can be used for the character. Other than alt codes, it also gives the Unicode and hex codes which can also be used to enter a specific character in the text.

There are many alt codes that you can utilize including alt codes for foreign languages, mathematics symbols, currency, and coding. Using the alt codes makes it easier for the user to save time along with offering new possibilities for creativity.

Some points to consider while using alt codes

Fonts and symbols

The fonts of the symbols that you are using alt code for will appear in the font that you are currently using. However, the font style and size of the characters can be changed into the desired font.

Sometimes word treats some special characters and symbols differently. As said above, if the character that is inserted is in the “normal text” that is the font style currently used, then it is treated as replaceable with other fonts. This does not cause a problem until you change the character into a font that does not include that character. For instance, the old font styles contain only the characters present on the keyboard or a few other characters. If the font style you chose does not have that symbol in it, it will appear as a small square in the text or doesn’t appear at all. This may sometimes be the case with accented letters that are not included in the font.

The new versions of windows contain many more Unicode characters than ANSI characters including symbols such as ♫. These characters cannot be adequately translated into other older ANSI characters. When you are inserting the symbols, you need to keep in mind the weather to insert a symbol that is a part of the old fonts like times new roman or Arial or deciding to use the same symbol in the form of the symbol or wingding fonts. You need to realize the difference of these characters, and in what font do these symbols exist, the rest depends upon the version of windows and Microsoft you are using.

How to use alt codes on MAC?

Alt key or the option key in Macintosh is like a hidden gem used very seldom by the Mac users. Similar to the windows PC, mac also have keyboard shortcuts, where the option key combined with a combination of other keys can be used to insert symbols and special characters including copyright, trademark symbol, currencies and many others in text apps and pages like note, text edit, creating logos with free online logo maker tool, or while typing emails.

Using alt codes or keyboard shortcuts on MAC can be a little difficult especially for the users who newly shifted to using Macs in place of windows. MAC in many ways is a better option as it has better performance, excellent design, and better security—however, learning the keyboard shortcuts of Mac keyboard can be a little daunting. One of the reasons for this can be the difference in modifying keys like Cmd for command, option for Alt, the arrow for the shift, Fn and others.

Mac has the option key instead of alt, but it plays the same role as the Alt key in the PC. They are located in between the control and command key on the keyboard. For example, if you press option+shift+= keys together, it’ll produce a symbol like ±. Like the windows computer, Macintosh also has many special characters and symbols including accented letters and emoji and special symbols that can be produced with the help of Alt codes.

The alt codes on Mac are used a little differently. It does not require numeric character codes. Instead, it merely uses keyboard letters and numbers to produce a special character. However, if you are in need of an additional special character, you would have to press the combination of the option, shift, and the additional keys presses together. With this combination, the keyboard will produce a different set of characters.

Mac also offers a character viewer tool to insert emojis in text content. You have to press command + control + space to open the character viewer in order to insert the symbol or character that you need.

Conclusion

Keyboard shortcuts are time savers; it is much easier to tap on to different keys than hunting down the different menus to enter special codes. Nevertheless, these codes are highly dependable upon knowledge and muscle memory. You need time and put in a lot of effort to memorize even the simplest of codes so you can benefit from them in the long run. Gamer are most crazy generation now a days they remember every important alt codes on their fingertips for playing so fast that’s why during the software game development developers always make sure to prioritize the alt keys for games for their easiness & to save their time.

Every app has their own set of shortcuts, and the shortcuts of one app might not work in others. Same is the case with Windows PC and Mac computers. However, practice makes it perfect, so keep on practicing and take advantage of alt codes and make your writing and designing experience easier.

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