How to Use Alt Codes

Type special characters using alt key codes on Windows and Mac

Windows and Mac alt codes are useful when you want to insert special characters or symbols without switching keyboards or languages on your computer. Use these codes to enter characters that aren't associated with a key on the keyboard, such as accented characters or other symbols.

The History of Keyboard Special Characters

In the past, computer users had to switch input languages for the operating system or connect an international keyboard to use accented letters. Typing symbols was a challenge because it depended on the software application.

Windows assigns each letter, number, character, and symbol an ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) numeric character code. ASCII codes allow you to open text files in software applications. ASCII codes are also the reason some inputs (like passwords) are case-sensitive. The ASCII code for an uppercase E is different from that of a lowercase e.

Other names for these ASCII codes are alt key codes and alt numeric pad codes. You can insert these characters or symbols individually by pressing the Alt key, then typing a specific number sequence on the numeric keypad of the keyboard.

You cannot use the numbers across the top of the keyboard for this. You must use the numeric keypad and with Number Lock enabled.

Alt codes without leading zeros (Alt+nnn) and those with leading zeros (Alt+0nnn) may produce the same or different characters and symbols, depending on the software application. Ones without leading zeros are based on the original IBM code. Those with leading zeroes are based on the original Windows code. 

To find a list of all the Alt codes you can use, check out or Microsoft's list.

How to Use Windows Alt Codes

For computers or laptops with a numeric keypad, use these alt codes to insert special characters into your text.

Accented Letters and Special Punctuation

Character Alt Code
á (lowercase a acute) Alt+160
â (lowercase a circumflex) Alt+131
ä (lowercase a umlaut) Alt+132
à (lowercase a grave)  Alt+133
é (lowercase e acute)  Alt+130
è (lowercase e grave)  Alt+138
É (uppercase e acute)  Alt+144
í (lowercase i acute)  Alt+161
ó (lowercase o acute)  Alt+162
ö (lowercase o umlaut)  Alt+148
ú (lowercase u acute)  Alt+163
ü (lowercase u umlaut)  Alt+129
Ü (uppercase u umlaut) Alt+154
ç (lowercase c cedilla)  Alt+1135
ñ (lowercase n with tilde)  Alt+164
Ñ (uppercase N with tilde)  Alt+165
~ (tilde)  Alt+126
¿ (inverted question mark)  Alt+168
¡ (inverted exclamation mark)  Alt+173


Character Alt Code
Θ (Greek theta)  Alt+233
± (plus minus symbol)  Alt+177
° (degree symbol)  Alt+176
¶ (pilcrow symbol)  Alt+182
✓ (checkmark)   Alt+10003

How to Use Alt Codes on Mac

To use alt codes on Mac computers, use the Option key instead of the Alt key. Option codes for accented letters, symbols, and special characters work differently on Mac computers, as you press Option, the accent, then the letter. For example, to create an n with a tilde, the alt code is Option+n. To create the letter, press Option+n, then press n again because you want to place the tilde over the letter n.

Accented Letters and Special Punctuation

Character Option Code
á (lowercase a acute)  Option+e+a
â (lowercase a circumflex)  Option+i+a
ä (lowercase a umlaut)  Option+u+a
à (lowercase a grave)  Option+`+a
é (lowercase e acute)  Option+e+e
è (lowercase e grave)  Option+`+e
É (uppercase E acute)  Option+e+E
í (lowercase i acute)  Option+e+i
ó (lowercase o acute)  Option+e+o
ö (lowercase o umlaut)  Option+u+o
ú (lowercase u acute)  Option+e+u
ü (lowercase u umlaut)  Option+u+u
Ü (uppercase U umlaut)  Option+u+U
ç (lowercase c cedilla)  Option+c
ñ (lowercase n with tilde)  Option+n+n
Ñ (uppercase N with tilde)  Option+n+N
¿ (inverted question mark)  Option+?
¡ (inverted exclamation mark)  Option+!


Character Option Code
Ω (Greek omega)  Option+z
± (plus minus symbol)  Option+Shift+=
° (degree symbol)  Option+Shift+8
¶ (pilcrow symbol)  Option+7

How to Access Special Characters on a Mac

The macOS offers a few symbols on the keyboard. To access the majority of these symbols, use the Special Characters window. To open it, press Command+Control+Space, then search for the symbol you want to add and double-click it.

Emoji Viewer Mac iOS

How to View All Option Codes With the Keyboard Viewer

To find a full list of Option codes available on macOS, open the Keyboard Viewer on your computer. 

  1. Select the Apple Logo > System Preferences > Keyboard.

  2. Go to the Keyboard tab.

  3. Select Show keyboard and emoji viewers in menu bar.

    Show keyboard and emoji viewers in menu bar System Preference in macOS.
  4. Select the Keyboard Viewer icon in the menu bar.

    Open Keyboard Viewer on Mac iOS
  5. Press Option to see one set of symbols and special characters.

    Keyboard Viewer Mac iOS - Option button pressed
  6. Press Option+Shift to see the second set of symbols and special characters.

    Keyboard Viewer Mac iOS - Option+Shift button pressed
  7. To insert an accented letter or symbol from the Keyboard Viewer, double-click it.

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