How to Make Symbols With Your Keyboard With the Alt Key

By Richard Kalinowski

If you're typing in a foreign language, solving complex math problems or just adding some stylistic intrigue to a document, you may need to insert special symbols. Your computer is capable of making a plethora of special symbols with the "Alt" key, if you know the proper "Alt Code" to insert the character. Using the Windows Character Map, you can find and use any symbol on your PC.

Things You'll Need

  • Pen or pencil
  • Scratch paper
  • Keyboard with 10-key

Finding the "Alt Code"

Step 1

Click on the Windows "Start" button.

Step 2

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

Step 3

Click on "Character Map" to open the program in a new window.

Step 4

Scroll the list of special symbols until you see the one you want to use. Click to select the symbol.

Step 5

Write down the "Keystroke" code listed in the lower right-hand corner. This code is usually "Alt" followed by four numbers. You can use the code to insert the symbol without consulting the Character Map.

Using the "Alt Code"

Step 1

Open a word processing document or email.

Step 2

Press "NumLock" to turn on your computer's 10-key (the small numeric keyboard on the far right of the main keyboard). "Alt Codes" work only on a 10-key. -- you can't enter them using the numbers at the top of the keyboard.

Step 3

Press and hold the "Alt" key.

Step 4

Type the four-digit numeric code on your 10-key. Shortly after entering the final numeric keystroke, the symbol appears on your screen.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you do not have a 10-key, you can't use the "Alt Codes," but you can still insert special symbols directly from the Character Map. Click "Select" and "Copy" from the Character Map window, then press "Ctrl-V" to paste the symbol into a document.