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Windows 7 - How to Insert Special Characters


Many foreign names and words have accents in some of the letters. While many people just use an unaccented version of a letter, this can look sloppy, especially in professional documents. With a character map containing just about every letter and every symbol from almost every language in the world, Windows 7 provides extensive multilingual support. The following methods will show you how to insert special characters or, if you need to use a specific character set regularly, install a new keyboard layout. You word processor may provide additional options for quickly and easily inserting special characters but, for the purpose of this guide, we will be using the Character Map, ALT codes and different keyboard layouts.

1 - Using ALT Codes
Using ALT codes is usually the most efficient way of entering a special character, although only a limited number of characters have codes assigned to them. To find an ALT code for a list of extended characters in the Latin alphabet, search for a list on the Internet. ALT codes can be entered into any word processor, including the very simplistic "Notepad." Simply press and hold the ALT key on your keyboard and enter the code for the letter you want to enter.
Using ALT codes requires that your keyboard has a numeric keypad. This is usually not available on laptop computers. If you are using a laptop, you will often be able to turn the number pad on by pressing the Function and Number Lock keys. Ensure that you press these keys again afterwards, otherwise the letters on the right-hand side of the keyboard will enter numbers instead when pressed.

2 - Using the Character Map
Windows 7, as previous editions of Windows, provides a Character Map containing every symbol included in every font on your computer. Windows 7 provides advanced multilingual support including various Unicode fonts.
To start the Character Map, type "charmap" into the start menu search box and press Enter. Choose a font from the dropdown box at the top. Ideally, you should choose the font that you are currently using in your word processor. The "Arial" font, for example, contains almost every character that you're ever likely to use. If not, you can choose the "Arial Unicode MS" font which contains letters and symbols from some particularly obscure languages as well.
Rather than scrolling through the enormous list below, you can group the symbols by category. To do this, select "Unicode Subrange" beside "Group by." A small side-window will appear with a list of Unicode categories including sections for different alphabets, mathematical symbols and more. Select the one you want and a list of the symbols in that category will appear. Double-click on the symbol you want to use and click "Copy." Paste it into your word processor.

3 - Adding a Custom Keyboard Layout
Of course, using the Character Map is a highly inefficient way of entering a special character, especially if you need to do it regularly. If you frequently type in a different language, you should add a keyboard layout for it. There are often different keyboard layouts for the same language as well, such as the US and UK keyboard layouts for English.
Type "Language" into the start menu search box and choose "Region and Language" from the results. Click the "Keyboards and Languages" tab and then click "Change keyboards." Click "Add" to add the keyboard layout that you want. Windows 7 includes keyboard layouts for hundreds of languages, dialects and regions. It even adds several more that were absent from Windows Vista.
Choose the language that you want to type in and press the "+" icon to open it. Press the "+" icon beside "Keyboard." Check the box beside the keyboard layout that you want to use and click "OK." Your language will appear in the list of installed services. To continue, click "OK" and then again in the Region and Language window.
To cycle through your installed keyboard layouts, press and hold ALT and press SHIFT. When you do this, the two-character language code in the language bar beside the system tray will change. For example, if you're typing in English, "EN" will be displayed. If you're using a French keyboard layout, "FR" will be displayed.

 

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