Ever since the original IBM PC, you could enter any character in the character set directly from the keyboard by entering its character code through the numeric keypad. This method is perhaps the most universally available on the PC and works in both DOS and Windows.
- Activate the numeric keypad if it is not already active. To do this:
- On a desktop, press the NUM LOCK key on the keyboard.
- On a laptop, there is no set procedure. Read the manual furnished with the laptop.
- Position the cursor in the document where you want to insert the character.
- Hold down the ALT key.
- On the numeric keypad, enter the number that corresponds to the desired character.
NOTE: the numbers on the top row of the keyboard will not work; you must use the numeric keypad.
- Release the ALT key. The desired character will appear.
- It works for all programs, both Windows and DOS.
- You absolutely must use the numeric keypad. The numbers on the top row of the keyboard will not work. Using the numbers on the top row of the keyboard is the most common reason for nothing happening.
- You must know what the numeric code for the character is.
- Windows uses ANSI character codes while DOS uses an extended ASCII character set.
- Some ANSI (Windows) codes are different than the ASCII (DOS) codes, especially among the special characters that you can only enter via the numeric keypad. Therefore, a given character code may display a different character in a Windows application than in a DOS application.
- To find the ANSI (Windows) code for a given character, you could use an external reference table or the Character Map Windows application.
- To find the ASCII (DOS) code for a given character, you must use an external reference table.
- In Windows, it is important to enter the entire number, including the leading zero. If you omit the leading zero in Windows, then the character inserted will not be the one you wanted, but rather Windows' closest approximation of the DOS character with that code.
Eg, the code of 161 represents the DOS character "í" or the Windows character "¡". In Windows, if you enter "Alt+0161", then the "¡" is inserted. However, if you omit the leading zero and enter "Alt+161", then the "í" is inserted.
- In DOS, it doesn't matter whether you include the leading zero or not. The DOS character will be inserted in either case.
- In Windows, the exact character that displays for a given ANSI code depends on what the current font is. Remember that some fonts assign different characters to the same code; eg, entering "Alt+0161" in the Symbol font would insert an uncial Greek upsilon ("") instead of an "í".
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First uploaded on 2000 January 31.
Last updated on 2016 May 20.