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.

Putting Character Codes to Work

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 26, 2021)

1

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.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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What is five more than 2?

2021-11-27 08:55:55

Ethan Hack

Thank you for the recent "Daily Nugget" reminder! That stimulated me to investigate further, and what I found out may be useful or interesting to some people.
- Strictly speaking, Alt plus a three-digit code less than or equal to decimal 255 enters a character from the original IBM PC character set, referred to as Code page 437. That's worth knowing because one can find out what characters one will get by searching for "Code page 437", e.g. in Wikipedia.
- Confusingly, Word (Word 365 at least) refers to the "ANSI" codes described above as "ASCII". More precisely, this is the Windows-1252 character set.
- Although the ANSI/ASCII/Code page 437/Windows-1252 character sets stop at 255 because they are limited to 1 byte, it is possible to enter characters with higher numbered (2 byte) character codes without using the Insert Symbol dialogue (only useful if you know what the character code is, of course). You can either type the character code as a hex number then press Alt-X (the Insert Symbol dialogue shows this) or as ALT + a decimal number using the numeric keypad, for example ALT+15000 (㪘). Rather impressively, Word selects a font that contains the desired character (such as a Chinese character) without being told to.


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