How to add special characters like emojis and accent marks using your computer’s keyboard

Typing on wireless keyboard mac
Every device supports special characters like emoji or Unicode symbols. nortonrsx/Getty Images
  • You can add special characters while typing on a computer using keyboard shortcuts or a special pop-up window.
  • Both Windows and Mac computers have the same special characters, but have different ways of typing them.
  • Windows users can use numeric codes to enter special characters, while Mac users can use a Character Viewer menu.
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From degree signs to accents, there are dozens of special characters that can be added to your text on a computer. This even includes emoji, which are more popular than ever these days.

Here’s how to type special characters on a PC and insert them on MacOS.

How to add special characters on a Windows PC

To type special characters in Windows, hold the Alt key, type the number code associated with the special character you want using the numpad that’s located on the right side of your keyboard. The row of numbers above your letter keys won’t work.

If you don’t have a numpad, you can hold the Windows key and press period (.) to bring up the emoji keyboard.

An emoji and special characters keyboard in Windows 10.
You can use this special characters keyboard whether or not you have a numpad. William Antonelli/Insider

A list of common special character codes

There are many special characters you can type using Alt codes, but here are some basic ones:

Alt Code Special Character
Alt + 1
Alt + 2
Alt + 3
Alt + 4
Alt + 5
Alt + 6
Alt + 7
Alt + 8
Alt + 9
Alt + 10
Alt + 11
Alt + 12
Alt + 13
Alt + 14
Alt + 15
Alt + 16
Alt + 17
Alt + 18
Alt + 19
Alt + 20
Alt + 21 §
Alt + 22
Alt + 23
Alt + 24
Alt + 25
Alt + 26
Alt + 27
Alt + 28
Alt + 29
Alt + 30
Alt + 31

How to insert special characters on a Mac

How to add accents and other diacritical marks

Apple notes that if the character you want is specific to a particular language, there’s a chance you’ll need to change your keyboard to that language to see it as an option.

1. When typing a letter that requires an accent or another type of diacritical mark, simply hold down the key representing that letter. If the key has options for diacritical marks, an accent menu will pop up.

2. Click the desired character or type the corresponding number key that appears beneath the character you want.

Typing diacritical marks on an Mac.
Just holding down a key will let you see its accented versions. Abigail Abesamis Demarest/Insider

How to enter special characters and symbols

1. Place the cursor where you want to add a special character or symbol.

2. Click Edit in the toolbar at the very top of your screen, and select Emoji & Symbols in the drop-down. Or, press Control + Command + Spacebar.

A Mac screenshot with the 'Emoji & Symbols' option highlighted.
The Emoji & Symbols menu is available in nearly every app you can type in. Abigail Abesamis Demarest/Insider

3. Locate the special character or symbol you want to use by scrolling or clicking the buttons at the bottom of the menu to jump to a specific category. You can also type in the search bar to narrow your search. Click the icon at the top right to see the expanded version of Character Viewer.

4. Click the character or symbol to insert it into your text.

The Emoji & Symbols menu in macOS Big Sur.
You can insert any emoji or special character from this menu. Abigail Abesamis Demarest/Insider

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