When personal computers (PC) were built for the first time of the history, many characters like Latin languages (such as French, Portuguese), English with accent marks, icons (like a happy face, etc.), and symbols (like $ and other currency signs, etc.), were not supported nor associated with keys. So, International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) first developed a way to display the characters that cannot be inputted along with the keyboard on the screen. Accordingly, while pressing the Alt key down, type the code defined for the character through the "Alt Numpad" input method. Then other similar operating systems developed the same feature or extended forms that are now available, including DOS and Microsoft Windows systems. The system which initially interprets this action and then places the relating character at the cursor's location is known as "BIOS." These codes became highly popular, and due to its popularity Microsoft, even though it decided to develop a new set of codes to keep them. Hence, the new set of codes was named "ANSI," Later, it was changed to "Windows codes." Concerning the old ones, they were called "OEM," which stands for "original equipment manufacturer" code pages.
Interestingly, the three-digit codes represent the "OEM" codes, full codes with a preceding 0 stand for the new "ANSI" codes. For the last two decades, Unicode is quickly adopted by various systems. After selecting Windows to Unicode, the entry of all Unicode characters and symbols by the same method was immediately desired and then achieved by some applications. However, they could not be spread to all systems, as the compatibility issues and the old "ANSI" codes prevent the entry of Unicode symbols.
How to use Alt Codes
Using Alt codes method is quite faster than searching for various symbols in the library, and then inserting it. Alt Codes also helps if you have a broken key. For instance, you can use the code "Alt+ 032" to add spaces between words. Alt codes consist of 5 digits.
There are some tips to remember about Alt Codes. For instance, you have to use the numbers on the "Numeric" keypad, as using the number keys right below your function keys may not work. Note that the "Num Lock" should always be on whenever you decide to type Alt codes. If your keyboard does not have a dedicated "Numpad," then you have another option, in which you have to use an "Fn" key in combination along with a "Num Lock" key. Be aware that not all the code symbols will show on printouts even though these codes show on your computer's or laptop's screen. Concerning the use of the Alt Codes for Apple, you should be aware that Apple has its method and does not rely on the other codes mentioned above. As using Alt codes on a Mac, you will need to use the "Character Viewer" button instead of using Alt codes.
How to create Symbols using Alt Codes
Below there are shown some tips on how you can type and create the symbols by using Alt codes. You are provided with an example of the cent (currency symbols) that you can type, namely the sign < ¢ > on your Windows PC. Follow these steps:
- Step 1 - At first, you need to open a document where you wish to type or see the symbol you create through Alt codes.
- Step 2 - Next, make sure that the key to "Num Lock" is positioned as "ON."
- Step 3- Then, you must press and hold down simultaneously, the left “Alt’ key of your keyboard.
- Step 4 - Next, click the one/1 key on the number pad.
- Step 5 - Once you press 1, then immediately press the five/5 key on the number pad.
- Step 6 - Finally, you need to press the five/5 key on the number pad.
See the photo below for further examples:
Windows Alt Key Codes for Mac.
Below there are some further examples that you can try on your keyboard. You may notice that some lower numbers have a designated keyboard key like the < $ > sign.
Currency Symbol examples with keyboard codes:
- Symbol - $ (Dollar); Keyboard codes: Alt 3 6;
- Symbol - ¢ (Cents); Keyboard codes: Alt 1 5 5;
- Symbol - £ (Pound); Keyboard codes: Alt 1 5 6;
- Symbol - € (Euro); Keyboard codes: Alt 0 1 2 8;
- Symbol - ₣ (French Franc); Keyboard codes: Alt 8 3 5 5.
Can Alt Codes don’t work
Sometimes it happens so that the Alt codes do not function and work as expected. The reason for that has to do with some details such as code pages and sometimes even Windows registry settings. For instance, if you tried to insert the Alt code for the French Franc in WordPad, Microsoft Word, or Outlook, it would work fine. However, it will not work using Excel, Gmail, my code editor, or other similar programs. Along with these programs, any code which is higher than about 255 will cause some unexpected results. Hence, you will immediately see a symbol produced, but it will not be the one you wanted, making it more confusing.
About Alt Key Symbols
There are hundreds of Alt key symbols. They are created by the combination of the alt key and numbers. For example, Alt+1 to Alt+31 represent icon symbols like faces and icons, while numbers 176 to 223 represent graphic polygons and lines.
The Alt key is widely known as part of the key combinations, by which you can do the following procedures:
- “Ctrl+Alt+Delete” shows a task manager in some operating systems.
- “Alt+⌘ Cmd+Esc” shows the “Force Quit” pop-up window in the Apple system.
- “Alt+F4” closes the current window. It can also shut down the system if the desktop is in the foreground.
- “Alt+⇧ Shift” switches among the layout of the language system.
- “Alt+Tab ↹” switches among the opened window.
How to type an Alt Key Symbol on keyboard
For instance, let's create a degree symbol using its "Alt Code" value on the keyboard. Follow the following steps:
- Step 1 - At first, make sure that the "Num Lock" key is switched "on."
- Step 2 - Next, you need to press and hold down simultaneously the Alt key.
- Step 3 - Then, type the ‘Alt Code” value of the degree symbol (or any other symbol you want to see in your document) along with “0176” on the numeric pad of your computer or laptop.
- Step 4 - Next, release the "Alt key," You will immediately get a < ° > degree symbol in your document.
*Note: Above mentioned method is not applicable for Mac OS; You can use this method with Windows.