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Kimberly Powell

Alt Codes for Entering Umlauts and Other Characters

By July 15, 2007

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From Spanish accents to German umlauts, there are a variety of special characters that we encounter among the surnames, place names, and other names in our family tree. In the interest of being accurate, I've recently started using those special characters in my genealogy writing and software, but looking them up in the symbols list always seems clunky. If you use a Windows computer, however, there are special numeric codes that you can use to insert these special characters instead. This can be a quicker solution, especially when you only use a few special characters. The Penn State Web site has a great page with Windows Alt Key Numeric Codes for accented letters and other special characters.

To use the codes:

  1. Place your cursor in the location where you wish to insert a special character.

  2. Activate the numeric key pad on the right of the keyboard by pressing Num Lock. This is usually found on the upper right of the keyboard, and a special Num Lock light will indicate that the numeric key pad is on. You must use the numeric key pad; if you use the number keys on the top of the keyboard, the characters will not appear.

  3. While pressing down the ALT key, type the four-digit code on the numeric key pad at the right edge of the keyboard. The codes are case sensitive. For instance, the code for lowercase is ALT+0225, but capital is ALT+0193. You must include the initial zero in the code.

  4. Release the ALT key. The character will appear when the ALT key is released.

If you're using a Macintosh, then the foreign characters and other symbols can be created via special key sequences, usually the Option key, plus a 1-2 key combination.

Now, of course, I use a laptop much of the time, and the first thing they sacrificed when scaling down the standard computer keyboard for a laptop was the numeric keypad on the right-hand side. But in searching on the Internet for a workaround, I actually found one! There is actually a numeric keypad hidden among the regular keys. How have I never seen this before? Probably because I never needed it.

If you have a laptop computer, then take a look at the 7, 8 and 9 keys. These three keys form the top of the shadow keypad on your laptop. Number 4, 5 and 6 are below on the next row, offset slightly to the right. On my laptop they are sharing space with the U, I, and O letter keys, but that varies by laptop keyboard. Looking closely, the numbers are actually right there on those keys in blue, the same as the other "function" keys. This also varies by laptop, but they are probably identified in some way.

The trick to using this feature on your laptop keyboard is to find the key that turns on num luck. For me it's a special function key. Then, once Num Lock is on, you still have to hold down the function key to enter the numbers required by the special ALT codes. So basically Function, plus Num Lock. And then Function ALT and the numbers in your Alt code. Kind of complicated, but this is only something that laptop users have to deal with.

Now I can type my Grandmother's name the correct way - Gisle. Won't she be proud!

Comments
October 21, 2007 at 5:20 pm
(1) Mad says:

Thank you for these instructions. I could not have figured it out without them!

October 11, 2008 at 9:28 am
(2) Sara says:

The problem starts, when you don’t have the numeric keyboard on your laptop. What can i do now?

October 11, 2008 at 6:17 pm
(3) Mystery says:

On a laptop it has small numbers above soem of the keys. I think you got to press the function button or something like that and it would work the same

November 25, 2009 at 3:38 pm
(4) Wilma says:

Thanks! I usually work on a desktop so didn’t know how to do that on a laptop. In our (Afrikaans) language a lot of symbols are used! I can add these in Word or so (insert -> symbol) but not all programs have that function.
: )

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