How to Use Alt Codes

Type special characters using alt key codes on Windows and Mac

ALT Codes on computer keyboard
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Alt codes are useful for Windows and Mac users who want to insert special characters or symbols without switching keyboards or languages on their computers. They're used to insert characters not directly associated with a key on the keyboard, like accented characters or other symbols. Keep reading to learn how to use alt codes on on both Windows and Mac computers.

The History of Keyboard Special Characters

Computer users used to have to switch input languages on their operating systems or plug in an international keyboard to use accented letters. Typing symbols was always a challenge because it depended on the software application. 

In Windows, each letter, number, character, and symbol is assigned an ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) numeric character code. ASCII codes let users open text files in any software application and are also the reason some inputs you make (like a password) are case-sensitive (the ASCII code for an uppercase E is different to that of a lowercase e). 

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

You cannot use the numbers across the top of your keyboard for this; only your numeric keypad and with the 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 you're using to type them. Ones without leading zeros are based on the original IBM code, while 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 Alt-Codes.net or Microsoft's own list.

Using 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

Symbols

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

Using 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, or special characters work a little differently on Mac computers, as you press Option+the accent+the letter. For example, to create an n with a tilde, the alt code is Option+n. To create the letter you would 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+!

Symbols

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

The macOS offers a few symbols via the keyboard; to access the vast majority, you'll need the Special Characters window. To open it, press Command+Control+Space, then search for the symbol you'd like to add and double-click it. 

Emoji Viewer Mac iOS

How to View All Option Codes via the Keyboard Viewer

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

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

  2. Click the Keyboard tab.

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

    Show keyboard and emoji viewers in menu bar System Preference - Mac iOS
  4. Click 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 a 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, simply double-click it.