How to type special characters in Word/Excel


No matter how rich your keyboard may look, it can’t just accommodate all the symbols or special characters there is. This makes it tricky to type such characters that have no dedicated keys on the keyboard.

However, this task is far from impossible.

You can type or insert any symbol you can think of using a number of different methods.

In this post today, I will show you how to type special characters anywhere on your Windows or Mac Pc on any software such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint or somewhere on your browser.

Without any further ado, let’s get to work.

How to Type Special Characters

Whilst the methods may differ slightly from software to software, I’ll show you some of the easy methods to get these special characters anywhere on your PC.

Then I’ll specifically show you how you may go about it in some of the various Office Programmes such as Excel, Word and PowerPoint.

Option 1: Using the Alt Code Method

Every special character you can think of has some special and unique character codes that are assigned to them. Called Unicode or character code, many others refer to them as alt codes.  

Character codes are designed and assigned to every character so that you may use them to type or insert special characters that do not have a dedicated key on the keyboard. You can do this by holding down the Windows Alt key whilst typing the alt code for the special character you wish to insert, using the numeric keypad.

Thus, to type any special character on Windows using the character code or alt code:

  • Step 1: Identify the alt code of the character you wish to type.

Identifying the character code of the special character is the first step here. That’s a lot of numbers to remember if you need to type a chunk of these special characters. To get the character code of any special character, I recommend you do a quick google search for that symbol’s alt code. For instance, to type the degree symbol, quickly google for “degree symbol alt code”. Google results should give you 0176 as the alt code for a degree symbol. You may also want to create a cheat sheet for quick reference if you happen to type certain characters often.

  • Step 2: Open the document where you need to type the symbol.
  • Step 3: Holding down your alt key, use the numeric keypad to type the alt code which is 0176 for the degree symbol. Please you must use the numeric keypad to type the code.
  • Step 4: Release the alt key after typing the character code.

As soon as you release the alt key, you should see the special character typed into your document.

This method will work anywhere on Windows including Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint or anywhere on your browser.

Option 2: Typing Special Characters in Word

There are several ways you may type the special character symbols in Word.

Using the alt code method explained above is one of the several options for Windows users.

However, the approach in this section will work on both Mac and Windows.

Without any further ado, below is a quick solution.

To type or insert special characters in Word, on the Insert tab, under the Symbols group, select the Symbol drop-down and click on More Symbols. The Symbol dialog box will appear with a gazillion number of special characters. Scroll down and locate the symbol you need, then double click on it to insert into your Word document.

Not enough? Below is a step-by-step guide with screenshots on how to go about it.

  • Step 1: Launch your Word document.
  • Step 2: Place the insertion pointer where you need to insert the special character.
  • Step 3: Go Insert>Symbols>More Symbols.
Go to Symbols>More Symbols
  • Step 4: The Symbols dialog box will appear; locate the symbol you wish to insert and double-click on it. Scroll down for more symbols.
The Symbol's dialog boxs
  • Step 5: Alternatively, select the special character and then click on the insert button.

This is how you may insert special characters in Word.

Option 3: Typing Special Characters in Excel

For Windows users, you can also use the alt code method to get any special character into your Excel spreadsheet.

However, if you are on Mac, you’ll need to get the shortcut for that particular symbol you wish to type.

Yet still, you can use this mouse-based approach by launching the Symbol dialog box as I’ve shown in the previous section for Microsoft Word.

To do so, go to the Insert tab of your Excel spreadsheet, select the Symbols drop-down then Symbol. The Symbol dialog box will appear. From this dialog, locate the special character you wish to insert into your Excel document, then double click on it to insert.

Option 4: how to type special characters on a mac

When you look on your Mac keyboard, the keys you see are the regular letters, numbers, and symbols you are most likely to use every day.

You’ll be happy to know that there’s a whole lot more, however, hidden just beneath the surface, including lots of the special characters.

To uncover these hidden characters, obey the following instructions.

Typing Accents on Mac

To type any accented character on Mac, press and hold the key relevant to the character that you wish to carry an accent. For instance, to type an accent on “e”, press and hold the “e” key until a small menu appears with the accented versions of the “e” letter. Then press the number that corresponds to the character you wish to insert.

This is how you may simply type any accent on your Mac PC.

This is one of the hidden characters that hides beneath the surface of your keyboard.

To reveal more, let’s jump to the next section.

Revealing More Special Characters on Mac

If the special character you need isn’t found through the long-press method described above, you’ll want to explore more ways to reveal more of Mac’s special characters.

You are just a few clicks away to the keyboard and character viewer. This allows you to select and insert individual special characters.

To go about this, go to System Preference > Language & Text > Input Sources and click to check the Keyboard & Character Viewer checkbox.

At this moment the Keyboard & Character Viewer menu will become visible on your menu bar. Click on this button on the menu to Show Character Viewer or Show Keyboard Viewer.

To insert a character on the Character Viewer, just double click the special character you wish to insert.

The Keyboard Viewer also presents a virtual keyboard that contains both the normal keyboard as well as the special character keyboard.

This is how you may also insert special characters on Mac.

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