Using the Character Map

by Barry Dysert
(last updated November 24, 2014)


Character Map is a utility program in Windows that allows you to insert special characters into any application that can accept them. So, for example, if you're using Microsoft Word and typing a French word that requires the use of a cedilla character, you can use Character Map to find and enter that character. (A cedilla looks like the letter C with a small squiggle under it.)

You invoke Character Map in Windows 7 by clicking Start, typing "character map" (without the quotes), and pressing Enter.

If you are using Windows 8 you can start Character Map by displaying the Charms (move the mouse to the bottom-right corner of the screen) and clicking Search. In the Search box, type "character map" (without the quotes, and press Enter.

The Character Map dialog box is very simple. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Character Map dialog box.

At the top of the dialog box is a drop-down list that contains numerous fonts installed on your system. If you know the font that contains the character you want to insert, select it from the drop-down list. For example, the cedilla can be found in the Times New Roman font, so you click the Font drop-down list and select Times New Roman from the list. Once the desired font is selected, you can visually scan the character set to find the cedilla. By clicking it, the character is enlarged to show you its detail. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. The Character Map dialog box with the cedilla enlarged.

When you're sure this is indeed the character you want, click the Select button. You can then copy it to the clipboard by clicking the Copy button. Now you can return to your document and paste it in. (If you're sure of the character you want without having to see it enlarged, double click the character, and it is selected without your having to click the Select button.)

In the lower-right corner of the Character Map dialog box is a keystroke indicator. This tells you what keystroke you can use to enter the character without having to use the mouse. In this case, the keystroke is Alt+0231, so to enter a cedilla without using the mouse, press and hold the Alt key while typing 0231 on the numeric keypad. When you release Alt, the cedilla will be inserted at the cursor position.

If you aren't sure what font contains the character you want to insert, you can search for it. Select the Advanced View checkbox to reveal an extended version of the Character Map dialog box. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3. The advanced view of Character Map.

Click in the Search For box, enter the word "cedilla" (without the quotes), and press Enter or click the Search button. This takes you to where you can select and copy the character, as before. To clear the search, click the Reset button (which appears in place of the Search button).

 This tip (12163) applies to Windows 7 and 8.

Author Bio

Barry Dysert

Barry has been a computer professional for over 30 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer.  He is currently a senior software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. ...


Pinning a File to the Taskbar

In an effort to make your computer use more efficient you can pin non-executable files to the taskbar for easy access. ...

Discover More

KeePass Password Safe

If you feel overwhelmed by the number of usernames and passwords you have to remember, KeePass Password Safe is your ...

Discover More

Understanding the Command Line For Loop

A niche command that sometimes comes in handy is the FOR loop. It has several forms and therefore can serve several ...

Discover More
More WindowsTips

Performing Simple Calculations Using the Calculator

The next time you need to perform calculations at your computer, there's no need to fire up a big spreadsheet program or ...

Discover More

Capturing a Screen Shot

There are a lot of reasons why you may want to capture screen shots. This tip shows how easy it is to do it.

Discover More

Using the Disk Cleanup Wizard

There are a lot of files that "hang around" on your system that you probably don't intend to keep (if you even realize ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WindowsTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is six more than 8?

2015-09-11 21:30:01

Colin Pernet

Cannot get symbols to appear using the Alt + way. I turn the number lock on and off. I use Word 2003 on Windows 7 on a laptop.
Regards, Colin

2015-02-06 15:27:18


When I find a special character I want to use a lot, I find it, type it into whatever document I have open. I copy the character, then open Quickcorrect (I have WordPerfect, but Word has a similar tool), decide on a code for it and paste the character into the quickcorrect tool. For instance, I use /bu for a bullet. When I type "/bu" and then a space, the code (/bu)disappears and is replaced by a bullet. Saves a lot of searching around or remembering or referring to character codes. I use quickcorrect for lots of different uses so I have made up a formula for coding them that works for me. You can make up your own.

2014-11-25 09:29:56


Microsoft's character map is very complicated. A much easier solution is to load a program (basic version is free) called Holdkey. You can download this program from the following URL:

After it is loaded, click on the Holdkey icon on the desktop, then clich [ HELP ] in the lower right corner, and finally, after the help page loads from the net, click on Quick Reference and print. This single page lists all of the special characters you will probably ever need.

To invoke the special character, simply hold down a key until an up arrow ↑ appears. Then from the list, select the character desired. It is then entered at the point of the cursor in the text that you are typing.

I have no personal attachment to this site or program. I simply discovered it on the net and tried it. I like it, so I thought I'd pass it on to anyone who wants to try it.

2014-11-24 20:59:11


I often use the Character Map, as I can not remember the codes.
So, I added a shortcut to my bar at the bottom of my screen, and now when I need to add a degree mark or some such, I simply click on the character map icon and find what I am looking for.

2014-11-24 17:17:15

Andrew G. Plourde

On my machine the Alt+0184 produces a plain old unattached cedilla (¸), where the Alt+0231 results in the c cedilla (ç). The c cedilla I understand; it's used in French and probably other languages, but what is the plain old cedilla used for?

2014-11-24 06:36:19

hamid reza afzal

its ver good i saw it before in microsoft word

2014-11-24 05:27:44


Alt+0184 still works in Word. Don't let the ribbon thing fool you. Just hold down Alt, let the ribbon change, and continue to type 0184. When you release the Alt key your cedilla will appear.

2014-11-24 05:05:11

Shreepad S M Gandhi

Thanks Barry. Again this was a new learning about how to invoke the Character Map.
From the above example for cedilla, how can I use Alt+0184 (I get this Keystroke for a Cedilla on my system) in Word. When I hold down Alt the ribbon tools get invoked and then 0184 fetches something else. Please help. Thanks in advance

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WindowsTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.