In today’s computing world, there are a lot of special symbols and characters in use that just cannot fit onto a standard keyboard. Even as a hardware reviewer, I find myself consistently using the degree, one-half, one-quarter, copyright, and registered symbols on a regular basis. Many others have to use accented characters, such as when writing your résumé) on occasion, even if you are not writing in Spanish or some other language. There are even scientific symbols that one might use, especially if you are a student.
You don’t need to hunt down these characters in your control panel’s Character Map, use a special GUI control or copy and paste them from a web page… you can do it right from your keyboard, without a mouse and you can literally do it blindfolded. All of the special characters in existance are right there in your keyboard, all thanks to the ASCII standard.
ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange, pronounced aski) is a character map between letters, symbols and a number. Since computers only understand numbers, the ASCII code is the numerical representation of what you see on the screen. The basic ASCII definition included 128 characters, of which 33 are non-printing (you’ll see a blank space on your screen).
The Alt key and numpad is used to tap into all of the hidden ASCII characters
The most common ASCII codes are executed when you press a single key on your keyboard. However, to access the symbols that do not appear on your keyboard you need to input a key combination.
In this example, we will generate an accented e (é) using only the keyboard…
1. Press and hold down the Alt key (AltGR on international keyboards, or Option on a Mac)
2. Input 130 on the numeric keypad (it MUST be the numeric keypad, not the numbers on the top row).
3. Release the Alt key. The special character é will magically appear after you let go.
You have access to the entire library of ASCII codes using this method. All you have to do is follow our handy chart!
* a new code of “0128” has been added to produce the Euro trade symbol (€)