How to Make a Degree Sign on Your Keyboard

By John Michael Thomas

In both Windows and OS X you can use either a keyboard shortcut or a built-in tool to insert a degree character into your text.

The degree symbol or sign (°) is commonly used when writing about the weather or entering mathematical formulas. But since the degree symbol isn't a standard character on your physical keyboard, you can't just type it like a normal keyboard character. Here are two ways to enter a degree symbol in Windows and OS X.

Special Characters Tools

Windows: Character Map

You can insert a degree symbol in Windows with the Character Map. Although some applications such as Microsoft Office have controls or menu selections with names such as Insert Special Character that open the Character Map, you can launch the Character Map to insert the degree symbol in any application.

Windows 8

  1. Move your mouse pointer to the upper right or lower right corner of the screen, to bring up the Charms menu.

  2. Click Search in the Charms menu.

  3. Type character map in the Search box.

  4. Click the Character Map icon in the Search results.

Windows 7

  1. Click on the Start menu (the Windows icon on your Task Bar).
  2. Select All Programs.
  3. Select Programs, then Accessories, then System Tools.
  4. Select Character Map.

Character Map is located within the System Tools subfolder of the Accessories folder.

The Character Map opens and displays a table of characters. To insert the degree symbol:

  1. Select the degree symbol (°) from the table.

  2. Press the Select button.

  3. Press the Copy button.

  4. Close the Character Map.

Type Ctrl-V to copy the degree symbol at your cursor location.

When you select the degree symbol in the Character Map dialog, a pop-up shows the symbol magnified, and you can then press the Select and Copy buttons.

Tip

Some fonts have hundreds of characters, so the degree symbol may be difficult to find. For most fonts, the degree symbol is in the center of the first page of the table, but if you don't see the degree symbol, either use the Character Map scroll bar to look for it, or change the Font field to Arial, and select the degree symbol near the center of the first page of the Arial font.

OS X: Emoji & Symbols Menu

You can insert the degree symbol in OS X with the Emoji & Symbols menu (previously called the Special Characters menu). The Emoji & Symbols Menu is part of the OS X core so you can access it from almost any application.

To bring up the Emoji & Symbols menu, select Emoji & Symbols from the Edit menu in the Menu Bar.

The Emoji & Symbols menu item is at the bottom of the Safari Edit menu.

The Characters window opens. Select the Math Symbols category on the left, and then find and select the degree symbol (°) in the table.

The degree symbol is toward the bottom of the list when the Math Symbols category is selected in the Characters window.

Press the Insert button. A ° symbol is inserted at your cursor location.

Tip

To bring up the Characters window quickly, you may also type Control-Command-Space on your keyboard.

To more quickly find the degree symbol in the Characters window, type degree in the search box. The window shows only characters that match your search, so you can easily find and select the degree symbol.

In both Windows and OS X, you can open a tool that allows you to select special characters, including the degree symbol .

Keyboard Shortcuts

Windows

In Windows, there are two different keyboard shortcuts that create a degree symbol, but you must have a numeric keypad on the right side of your keyboard for either of these to work. (If your keyboard doesn't have a numeric keypad, then you'll have to use the Windows Character Map, as described in Special Characters Tools, above).

To insert a degree symbol with your numeric keypad in Windows, do one of the following:

  • Type Alt-248 (hold down the Alt key and type 248) using the number keys on your numeric keypad.

  • You can also type Alt-0176 (hold down the Alt key and type 0176) using the number keys on your numeric keypad.

In both cases, when you release the Alt Key, a ° is inserted at your cursor location.

Tip

If neither of these keyboard shortcuts work, there are two possible problems.

  • Your Numlock setting may be interfering with the keyboard shortcuts.  Press the Numlock key once and then type the keyboard shortcut again.

  • You may have an application running that has remapped the keyboard shortcut.  You must either identify and close the application that's preventing you from using the keyboard shortcut, or use the Windows Character Map to insert the degree symbol (see Special Characters Tools, above).

Although the Alt-0176 shortcut takes 1 extra key stroke, it may be easier to remember since Character Map displays it. When you select the degree symbol in Character Map the bottom right corner of the dialog displays the Alt-0176 keyboard shortcut (Keystroke: Alt-0176); so if you forget it, you can use Character Map to find it again. This also allows you to find the keyboard shortcut for any symbol; find the symbol in the Character Map and you can use the Keystroke displayed by Character Map as a keyboard shortcut to insert that symbol.

OS X

There are two different keyboard shortcuts to insert a degree symbol in OS X. However unlike Windows, each of these shortcuts inserts a different version of the degree symbol, and you can choose the one you prefer.

  • Type Option-Shift-8 (hold down the Option key, then hold down the Shift key, and with both keys still held down, press the 8 key) to produce a large degree symbol.  Example: 85°.

  • Type Option-K (hold down the Option key then press the K key) to produce a smaller degree symbol, which is displayed slightly higher.  Example: 85˚.

In both cases, when you release the keys, the selected degree symbol is inserted at the location of your cursor.

Although the special characters tools allow you to browse and select many characters and symbols, if all you want is to insert a degree symbol, you can do so quickly with a keyboard shortcut.