Windows Character Map

Keyboard key with 3 icons representing character map

The Windows Character Map gives you access to all those odd letters, numbers, and squiggles that aren’t on the keyboard

I wrote this blog post in 2011. There’s something reassuring about reading through it in April 2024 and finding that it still works now for Windows 10 and 11 exactly as it did in the days of Windows XP and Vista. Even the screen grab of the character map is the same in essential details (only the border has changed). So, back to the (slightly updated) post:

Have you ever wondered how to type special characters that do not appear on the keys of your keyboard?

I’m talking of things such as:

è é ç

These are all pretty standard French characters, but it’s not at all obvious (in Windows, at any rate) how to type them on an English keyboard.

Likewise, you may need symbols such as © (copyright) and ¥ (yen) from time to time.

These characters, and many others, are accessible from the Windows Character Map.  You can see below the Character Map for the font Calibri in Windows 7. Note that some fonts (like the one illustrated) contain more characters than can be contained in the fixed-size window, so there is a scroll bar at the right.

A window showing Windows Character Map

You can access the Character Map from the Start Menu in Windows 10 and 11. Just start typing “char” in the search box and then click on the app when it is offered. You also get the opportunity to pin it to the Start Menu or taskbar so that it is there for future use.

How to open the character map
How to open the Character Map from the Windows 11 Start Menu

 

Grabbing Characters from the Character Map

Now that we have access to the Windows Character Map we need to know how to use it.

  • Select your font by clicking the triangle next to “Font:”. Note that different fonts have some different characters.
  • Select your character(s) by double-clicking on it/them. As you double-click on them you will see them build up in the space next to “Characters to copy:”
  • Click on the “Copy” button. This will put the selected characters into the Windows clipboard (an area of memory where Windows puts data prior to “pasting” it to somewhere else).
  • Return to the program into which you wish to place the special character(s).
  • Type Ctrl v to insert the characters. Note that “Ctrl v” (pronounced “control vee”) means depressing the key marked “Control” or “Ctrl” and, while that key is down, hitting the letter v. If the application you are using has a “paste” command then that will do exactly the same thing.
  • If you select special characters from “character sets” that your program can not handle then they may appear in your documents as question marks. If this happens, go back to the character map, tick the box next to “Advanced View” and then select “Windows: Western” from the list next to “Character Set”. Then choose your characters again.

Wingdings and Webdings

If you scroll down towards the end of the list of fonts, you will see several fonts called Wingdings, Wingdings2. These are special fonts that produce entirely different characters that are more like icons than letters. These can be inserted into “normal” text in just the same way as other characters. Here are just a few examples from the Wingdings font:

4 wingdings - yin yang, telephone, envelope, clock

image from all-free-download.com