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Add Custom Characters to Windows Documents Using the Numeric Keypad
The numeric keypad section that is present on many PC keyboards can be used to add special characters to documents such as letters and email.

Did you ever want to put a special character like the cent sign (¢) or the British pound sign (£) into a document or email? Or use the correct symbols for Spanish or other languages? Regular users of word processing programs like Microsoft Word probably already know how to do this but many average PC users are not aware that an easy method of inserting special characters is readily available. I have discussed using the accessory Windows Character Map on another page but here I want to discuss using the Numeric Keypad. This can be the fastest way for inserting some of the common symbols. It involves remembering a number code or having the code handy but otherwise it is an easy process.

The Numeric KeypadThe Numeric Keypad

The Numeric Keypad is commonly in the right-hand section of desktop keyboards. An example is shown on the right. It was originally a convenience for those who were used to the old-fashioned adding machines but it has some specialized functions as well. One of these is to insert special characters in documents by entering special code numbers. To use the Numeric Keyboard for this purpose, " Num Lock" should be on. The status of Num Lock is indicated by a light (not shown) above the keypad . "Num Lock" can be toggled on and off by using the key labeled "Num Lock". This key is shown in the upper left corner of the figure.

To insert a special character in a document, place the insertion point at the appropriate spot in the document. Next, hold down the Alt key and enter the appropriate code numbers for the desired character using the Numeric Keypad. Then release the Alt key and the character will appear in your document. As an example, to enter the cent sign (¢) hold down the Alt key and enter "0162" (without quotes). Then release the Alt key.

The codes for special characters can be obtained from the Windows Character Map as discussed on another page. Also, the codes are tabulated in various places such as this reference. (The tabulated codes are part of a group called iso8859-1. The three-digit numbers must have a leading zero to work in our context. The general topic of encodinfg characters is dicussed on another page.) If you use a particular character very frequently, you will probably remember the code. While you may not want to remember dozens of codes for various special characters, a table of some of the more common ones might be kept at hand for reference.

Table of Some of the More Common Codes

The codes that are given in most tabulations on the Internet are in a format appropriate to HTML code or other media presentations. The codes that should be used in the Numeric Keypad are slightly different. They are generally in the form 0xyz where x, y, and z are integers. Some of the more common examples are given below.

Special character codes
Description Character Code
cent sign ¢ 0162
pound sterling £ 0163
yen sign ¥ 0165
section sign § 0167
copyright © 0169
registered trademark ® 0174
degree sign ° 0176
plus or minus ± 0177
superscript two ² 0178
superscript three ³ 0179
paragraph sign 0182
cedilla ¸ 0184
fraction one-fourth ¼ 0188
fraction one-half ½ 0189
fraction three-fourths ¾ 0190
inverted question mark ¿ 0191
capital C, cedilla Ç 0199
small c, cedilla ç 0231
small n, tilde ñ 0241
division sign÷ 0247

The examples given in the table above should work for default settings in common Windows applications like Notepad, Wordpad, and Outlook Express. However, different fonts or language settings can affect what you get. Also, Notepad can display fewer characters because of its more limited support. Generally, numbers through 0256 work but after 256, things get more complicated. See this reference for more detail. More discussion of the various encodings is on another page.

A More General Hexadecimal Way to Enter Unicode Characters

The method described above only works for a certain limited set of decimal-denoted characters. A much larger universe is accessible if hexadecimal input is used. The Alt key, the numeric keypad, and the regular keyboard are all involved. The procedure is:

  1. Hold down the Alt key.
  2. Press the + key on the numeric keypad.
  3. Type the hexadecimal Unicode value on the regular keyboard.
  4. Release the Alt key.

There are numerous lists of Unicode character codes on the Web. The official site for Unicode is http://www.unicode.org/ and extensive tables for the many characters can be found there. Note that only if you have a font that contains a character can it be displayed. I have found that Lucinda Sans Unicode has some of the more off-beat characters.

Registry edit to allow hexadecimal input

One problem with this method is that it is likely that it won't work until you do a Registry edit to allow hexadecimal input. Those who are experienced at editing the Registry can open Regedit and go to the key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Input Methodand add the string or REG_SZ value EnableHexNumpadSet the data value equal to "1" (no quotes). See the figure below. As always, back up before any Registry edit.

Registry edit to allow hexadecimal input
Registry edit to enable hexadecimal input 

File to carry out Registry edit to enable hexadecimal input

If on one hand you want to be able to enter hexadecimal codes for characters, but on the other hand you are not keen on Registry editing, here's help. I have written a little INF file that will add the necessary entry to the Registry for you.   Download the zipped file here. Just unzip to anywhere convenient and right-click it. In the context menu that opens, choose "install". That's it. It will edit the Registry silently. You will have to log off and back on for it to come into effect. You can delete the INF file after you use it. The usual disclaimers apply. The file is furnished as is with no guarantees. The user is responsible for any use of the file.


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