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Inserting Symbols into Microsoft Word

written by: John Garger•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/20/2011

Using the Ribbon introduced in Microsoft Office 2007, users can insert thousands of symbols and special characters into Word 2007 or 2010 documents. Learn how to use two methods to insert symbols into Word documents.

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    The keyboard is the main interface device for computer users. Often, users believe that the keys on the keyboard represent the only characters and symbols available to them when using a word processor or other program. However, many fonts have hundreds of special characters and symbols available that are not directly accessible using the keys of a keyboard.

    Word 2007 and 2010 make use of Microsoft’s new Ribbon menu system introduced in the Office 2007 suite of software. Unlike previous drop-down menus, the ribbon at the top of the screen changes depending on which category of functions the user chooses. Making use of the Ribbon, you can insert into Word 2007 and 2010 thousands of symbols and characters not found on the standard keyboard.

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    Inserting Symbols and Special Characters into Word 2007/2010

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    How to Insert Symbols and Special Characters into Word Using the Ribbon

    Insert Symbols into Word At the top of the Word screen, there are seven major categories of functions including Home, Insert, Page Layout, References, Mailings, Review, and View. Naturally, when inserting symbols, you should choose the Insert Ribbon by clicking on the word “Insert." This changes the Ribbon to show the Insert functions available in Word 2007 or 2010. This Ribbon shows functions such as inserting page numbers, hyperlinks, headers, footers, WordArt, and to the very right of the Ribbon, Symbols.

    Clicking on the symbols button opens a small window showing the most common symbols for the particular font you are using. Clicking any one of the common symbols instantly places that symbol into your document where the cursor is presently situated in your document. However, there are typically hundreds of symbols and special characters available in most fonts beyond just those most commonly used.

    Clicking on “More Symbols" opens up the symbols menu where you have access to all the symbols available in every font you have installed on your computer. Here you can scroll through the various symbols and insert them into your document by clicking on them. Again, they will be placed into your document wherever the cursor is presently situated in your Word document.

    Notice that you are not limited to the present font you are using in Word. Using the drop down font menu, you can insert symbols and characters from any font available to Word. Some fonts are nothing but special symbols. In that case, you need to use the Insert Symbol Ribbon menu to view and place the symbols and characters into your document.

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    Shortcuts to Inserting Symbols in Word

    At the bottom of the Insert Symbols menu, you may have noticed two shortcuts. The Shortcut Key button allows you to assign a custom key for symbols and characters you use often. For example, suppose you use the Registered Trademark (circumscribed “R") in many of your documents. Using the Shortcut Key button, you can assign any key to place that symbol into your Word document. This can speed up placement of the symbol and eliminate the need to use the Ribbon each time you need to insert the symbol.

    Symbols in Word 2007 and 2010 Every symbol also has an “alt" code that you can use to place symbols and characters into your documents as well. Notice that next to the Shortcut Key button, you see the words “Shortcut key: xxxx, Alt+x" where xxxx is some numbers depending on which symbol is currently active. This number tells you the shortcut number for every character and symbol available for a particular font. You can place a symbol into your Word document by holding down the “Alt" key on your keyboard and keying in the symbol’s number using either the numbers above the letters on your keyboard or using the “calculator" numbers to the right of most keyboards. If you use the calculator keys on your keyboard, be sure the “Num Lock" key is active.

    In the Times New Roman font, the alt shortcut key for the Registered Trademark symbol is “0175." You can insert this symbol into your document at any time by holding down the “Alt" key and typing “0175" without having to use the Insert Symbol Ribbon. This is useful if you use several computers and haven’t assigned a special key to your most commonly-used symbols on each of the computers you use.

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    Conclusion

    There are hundreds of symbols available in Word 2007 and 2010 other than those on the standard keyboard. Inserting symbols and special characters is a matter of using the Insert Symbols Ribbon and finding the symbol or character you want to use. Alternatively, you can use shortcut keys that you have assigned to a character or use a symbol’s “alt" code to insert symbols without having to use the Ribbon.

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    Image Credit

    Images: Author's screenshots