Keyboard symbols exist so that you can type characters that aren't labeled directly on your keyboard. Since they're not labeled, it can be difficult to remember the common codes for popular computer keyboard symbols.
What Are Keyboard Symbols?
Keyboards simply don't have enough keys for all the letters and symbols people may want to type. Keyboard symbols exist as an alternate way to type special characters and symbols you may need. In Windows, you can use the ALT key in conjunction with your number keypad to create symbols that don't exist on the keyboard. You must have Number Lock turned on to use the keypad to create symbols. Not all ALT codes work with all font styles; downloaded fonts often lack keyboard symbols.
Using Symbols Without the ALT Key
Windows includes a feature called the Character Map. You can find the Character Map on the Start Menu, under Accessories>System Tools. When you select the Character Map, you can scroll through all the possible symbols and click on the symbol to insert it. The Character Map also lists the ALT codes, so you can write down the ALT codes you use most frequently for reference.
In Microsoft Word, you can use the Insert Symbol menu to insert keyboard symbols, instead of using ALT codes or the Windows Character Map.
In addition to common symbols, you can also use the keyboard to create foreign accent marks. Many foreign accent marks can be accessed through ALT key combinations. For a full list of accents and letters in foreign scripts, consult the Windows Character Map.
The Most Popular Keyboard Symbols
There are 300 keyboard symbols available. Here are a few of the symbols most commonly used in regular typing:
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