How to enter special characters on a Windows 11 PC

Here’s the situation: You’re writing a report for work and all of a sudden you have to write the sentence “Jones née Berkowitz.” Or you add a sentence in Spanish and need to use the word “años”. How do you add the special characters to the letters on your Windows 11 PC?

Special characters (also as diacritical marks) may be more common in certain languages, but there are many circumstances in which English speakers need to use them. But because they are so rare in English, native English speakers may not have learned how to add these characters to documents, emails, or other writing. Adding them to your Windows document isn’t difficult, although it doesn’t work quite as smoothly like on a Mac, where you just have to press and hold the appropriate button. (In fact, once upon a time you should have looked up the character codes of the symbols.)

Here are different ways to add special characters when using a Windows 11 computer.

Use the touch keyboard

The easiest way to add diacritics to a document is to enable the Windows On-Screen Keyboard. (Thanks to Ed Bott out ZDNet to guide me to this method first.) The touch keyboard will appear automatically when using a windows tablet or a pc in tablet mode. If you don’t have a touch screen, you can use the keyboard icon that appears in the taskbar on the right side next to the date. Do not you see it? How to get it:

  • Click the search icon on the toolbar and search for “touch keyboard”. Or go to Settings > Time & language > Typing > Touch keyboard.
  • Check Show the touch keyboard when no keyboard is connected.

Enable the touch keyboard.

Enable the touch keyboard.

Now if you want to use a special character:

  • Click on the touch keyboard icon. (You can usually find it on the right side of the taskbar.)
  • The touch keyboard is displayed. Long press (mouse button or finger if you have a touchscreen) on the letter you want to use.
  • You will now see several additional keys showing how you can type that letter with different symbols. Select the one you want and it will appear in your document.
  • If you want to add an emoji or a GIF, click the emoji button. (It’s the heart icon in the upper-left corner of the keyboard.)

Long press on the touch keyboard to display the letter with different diacritics.

Long press on the touch keyboard to display the letter with different diacritics.

Use emoji keyboard

Another keyboard that you can access and use to easily add special characters to your text is the Windows Emoji Keyboard. Yes, its main purpose is to add emojis to your text, but it has other uses as well. And it’s easy to use.

  • Hold the Windows key and press the period key.
  • The emoji keyboard will appear. Click the Symbols tab at the top (fourth from the left).

You can also access special characters from the emoji keyboard.

  • Scroll down until you find the character you want. You can also jump to different types of characters using the categories (like “Common Punctuation Marks” or “Currency Symbols”) above.

Use the character map

If you want to try a more old-fashioned way of adding special characters to Windows, you can use the Character Map, which is a less sophisticated and more complicated version of the touch keyboard, but offers a similar service.

To access it on your Windows 11 system:

  • Select the search icon on your taskbar, type “characters” in your search box, and then select the Character Map app.
  • You’ll get a pop-up card with a bunch of special characters for a specific font. You can change the font by clicking the Font dropdown menu above.

You can access a large number of special characters via the character map.

You can access a large number of special characters via the character map.

  • Click on the letters or special characters you want to use in your document, and then click the “Choose” button. They appear in the sign to copy Field.
  • When you have selected all the characters you want, click Copy and then paste the characters into your document.

Use the US international keyboard

If you speak English, are multilingual, and use special characters often, you might want to try the US International Keyboard, which maps your keyboard so you can add special characters more easily. (Thanks to “shiroledat” for the tip.)

First you need to add the US International Keyboard to Windows:

  • Go to Settings > Time & Language > Language & Region.
  • Search Preferred Languages and (assuming you speak English in the US) click English (United States). Then select the three dots on the right and choose language options.
  • search for keyboards Section that (if you’ve never been there) probably only has a single labeled keyboard icon USA / QWERTY. This is the keyboard layout you are using now. Click on that Add a keyboard button to the right of Installed keyboards.

Look for the list of your installed keyboards.

Look for the list of your installed keyboards.

  • Scroll to on the pop-up menu that appears USA-International / QWERTZ and click on it.

If you click on

If you click on “Add keyboard” you will get a list of possible keyboards.

Now you always have the choice to use either the standard US keyboard or the US International Keyboard. You can see which is active on the bottom right of your taskbar near the date. It is either read ENG / US or ENG / INTL. Click on it (or just press Windows key+spacebar) and a pop-up menu lets you switch from one to the other.

Your chosen keyboard will be displayed on the right side of the taskbar; Select it to change your keyboard.

The current keyboard is displayed on the right side of the taskbar; Select it to change your keyboard.

The US International Keyboard gives you two ways to add a special character:

  • Use the right alt key in combination with the corresponding letter to get one of the more common combinations. For example, Alt+e will end in that e.
  • Press the symbol you want to use and then the letter you want to use it with. For example, if you press first ~ symbol and then this n key, you will get n.

Washington State University posted a useful chart shows all the symbols you can get with the US International Keyboard.

Use the Unicode value

Do you remember the character map? After selecting a letter or special character, if you look at the lower-right corner of the Character Map, you will see the word keystroke followed by Old and a four-digit number. This number represents the Unicode value of the symbol, and it’s the time-honored standard for adding characters.

If you consistently use some special characters, it may be faster to just add the character you want using your regular keyboard. There are several ways to do this; Here are two of the simplest (each of which has its limitations):

  • Press the Alt key and then enter the four-digit Unicode value. For this to work you need a separate number pad on your keyboard and the NumLock key should be enabled.
  • If you are working with Microsoft Word, WordPad, Outlook or any other Microsoft app, you can type the Unicode value and then type Alt-X.
  • You can also press Ctrl plus a symbol and then the letter you want to highlight. For example, Ctrl+’ and e will end in that e – assuming you’re in a Microsoft app. How to enter special characters on a Windows 11 PC

Fry Electronics Team

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