Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Putting Character Codes to Work.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 23, 2017)
If you know the ASCII or ANSI codes for a particular character, and you want to enter it into your document, you can do so by holding down the Alt key and using the numeric keypad. If you enter a three-digit code, then Windows assumes you want the ASCII character associated with that code. If you enter a four-digit code, then Windows assumes you want the ANSI character associated with that code.
For instance, the ASCII code for an uppercase A is 65. You could enter this character by holding down the Alt key and pressing 065 (a three-digit code) on the numeric keypad. It just so happens that this is the same as the ANSI code for an uppercase A, as well. Thus, you could hold down the Alt key and press 0065 (a four-digit code) for the same result. This works because the ASCII and ANSI codes are the same for all values between 0 and 127. When you work with values between 128 and 255, they are different.
You can see this difference by holding down the Alt key and pressing 163 (a three-digit code) on the numeric keypad. This inserts a foreign language character in your document. If you instead use a four-digit code for the same number (hold down the Alt key and press 0163), Word inserts the symbol for the British pound.
You should also know that you can use the Alt key with a regular value. For instance, you can type Alt and then the number 3 on the keypad. This inserts a character for a heart. The values between 0 and 31 do not represent printable characters in either ASCII or ANSI codes. If you hold down the Alt key and enter a number between 1 and 31 on the numeric keypad, Word inserts various miscellaneous dingbat characters in your document. The best way to see how this works is to simply try it in a document of your choosing.
To insert the full range of Unicode characters into your document, you cannot use the simple approach of holding down the Alt key and using the numeric keypad. Instead, you must display the Symbols dialog box. (Display the Insert tab of the ribbon, click Symbol in the Symbols group, and then click More Symbols.) You can then choose a font and a Unicode subset. Word then displays the available characters in the dialog box, and you can select the character you want to insert.
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (11219) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Putting Character Codes to Work.
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