Unicode – Characters (Part 3)

Once you have found, in one of the various Unicode tables, the decimal codes for the characters of different writing systems that you would like to insert into your document, you can start "typing" the characters on the computer keyboard. This only requires a few steps.

Keyboard inputs in the Unicode decimal system ("Windows Alt Codes")

If you have a numeric keypad on your computer keyboard (usually located to the right of the main keypad), you can enter the desired characters directly in the decimal code. To do this, first press the "Num Lock" key on the keyboard to activate the numeric keypad. In Windows, keep the "Alt" key pressed, while entering on the numeric keypad the four-digit number code from the Unicode list. This method of entering special characters into Word documents and other documents is also known as "Windows Alt Codes" input (see video).

If the characters you wish to enter do correspond to codes with only one up to three digits, you have to put a corresponding number of zeros preceding the Unicode number so that all four numeral positions are filled with digits (otherwise the computer will interpret a character other than the desired one).

Example: The capital letter A with accent (acute): „Á“ has the position 193 on the Unicode list. If you hold down the "Alt" key and type "0193" on the numeric keypad, "Á," will appear as soon as you release the "Alt" key.

Inserting Unicode characters on computer keyboards with numeric keypad:
“Windows Alt Codes” (NumLock), for decimal Unicode. CC: AN 2018, BY-NC-SA.

While on larger computer keyboards the numeric keypad usually is separated from the main keypad, on smaller laptops there is often no room for it. Instead, the numeric keys are "simulated" on other keys on the main keypad using a function key, „Fn“.

In order to activate the numerical key layout, similar to the large computers, you first have to press the lock key "NumLock" on your laptop (instructions can be found, for instance, on producer websites in German or English language, or in internet forums and at introductory websites).

For different types of laptops it varies where exactly the NumLock key is, or how it is designed, e.g. whether there is NumLock, Num Lk, Num, or Num⇩ written on it. Mostly, however, the NumLock key is found somewhere in the top row of buttons for the system commands. When you have found it, press simultaneously "Fn" and "NumLock", and then type the respective digits using the "new" layout of the keys:

Common layout of keys:

„0“ is found on the key for „M“,
„1“ is found on the key for „J“,
„2“ is found on the key for „K“,
„3“ is found on the key for „L“,
„4“ is found on the key for „U“,
„5“ is found on the key for „I“,
„6“ is found on the key for „O“,
„7“ is found on the key for „7“,
„8“ is found on the key for „8“ and
„9“ is found on the key for „9“.

Inserting Unicode characters on Laptops:
“Windows Alt Codes” (NumLock), for decimal Unicode. CC: AN 2018, BY-NC-SA.

Tip: Remember to turn off the numeric keypad - again by pressing "Fn" and "NumLock" - when you finish typing, in case your device goes into sleep mode or is set off, and your may have to enter your password. Similar to the caps lock key for capital letters, switching to the numerical mode changes the keyboard layout of your laptop.

Generally it is also possible to buy the numeric keypad for laptops as a USB device, which provides the same functional support as larger computer keyboards. Alternatively, you can use a virtual on-screen keyboard, which is available, for instance, in Windows 10.

The "Windows Alt Code" input works "for text editors (NotePad, TextPad, WordPad, kate), for the DOS command-line input, partly for the free office package OpenOffice.org, the Microsoft Office components Excel, Access and PowerPoint, as well as for Microsoft Word, if NumLock is activated" (Academic 2017, trans.). However, it does not work in Linux, where you have to use hexadecimal input options instead.

Mac-users generally need to use other input methods than PC users in Windows, to insert Unicode characters.

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