From the Kenosha News on 7-16-06

Insert special symbols into your Word documents

In January 2006, my column discussed how to insert foreign language characters into documents. This column covers other special characters and how to add them easily to your Word documents using two different techniques: Adding the Symbol button to your toolbar and creating shortcut keys.

The most common special characters I insert include the cent sign (¢) and the check box ( r). If you’re into science or math, you may need to insert the pi symbol (π), a division sign (÷), etc. If you use these characters only rarely, then you can add them “manually” by clicking on the Insert menu and selecting Symbol. When the font is shown as (normal text), you have access to a variety of scientific symbols and characters from other alphabets, including Greek, Cyrillic, Hebrew, and Arabic. To get additional symbols like the check box, smileys, arrows, and much more, do the above but select the font of “Wingding.”

If you use symbols somewhat frequently, you can put the Symbol button on your toolbar as follows:

  1. Click the Tools menu and drag to Customize.
  2. Click on the Commands tab
  3. In the Categories list on the left, click Insert
  4. In the Commands list on the right, scroll down until you find “Symbol.”
  5. Click on the Symbol item and drag it up to the toolbar where you want it to appear. (I put mine on the Standard toolbar, to the right of the Insert Table icon.)

If you use symbols regularly, defining key shortcuts will save you lots of time. For example, let’s assign the check box to the key sequence Alt-9.

  • Click the Insert menu and select Symbol
  • Select the Wingdings font from the drop-down menu
  • Scroll down to and click on the check-box character
  • Click the Shortcut Key button
  • Place your cursor in the box labeled “Press new shortcut key”
  • Press the desired key combination: Alt-9. That combination should now display in the box.
  • Click the Assign button
  • Click the Close button

Now, any time you press Alt-9, you should get a check box in your document. Note that these shortcut keys only work in Word and do not carry over to Excel, e-mail, or any other application. You can insert symbols manually in Excel, but there is no shortcut key feature.

When defining shortcut keys, be careful not to use key combinations that already have other functions. For example, Ctrl-P is already the key sequence for Print; Ctrl-S is for Save, etc. To check this, stop after step 6, above. If you have selected a key combination that is already in use, that definition will appear just below the “Press new shortcut key” box after “Currently assigned to:” If the item says [Unassigned], then it does not currently have a function and is safe to use. If it is in use, highlight the key sequence and press Delete, then press another key sequence. Don’t click the Assign button until you’ve specified one you like.

Thanks to Tim Eckert, professor at Carthage, for providing much of the above.

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 7-16-06