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Inserting Symbols

In some ways, Excel seems like a "poor relative" to Word. (Just in some ways, mind you.) One such way is evident when you want to insert a symbol into a cell. In Word, you can easily insert a symbol by choosing Symbol from the Insert menu. In Excel, there is no such comparable menu option.

So how do you get special symbols into Excel? One way, of course, is to switch over to Word and insert the symbol in the document. You can then copy the character and paste it into Excel. There is a better way, however, even though it is some what related. This involves using the old tried-and-true method of using the Character Map accessory in Windows itself. Simply start the accessory by choosing Programs from the Start menu, then choosing Accessories, and finally choosing Character Map. In the resulting dialog box you can pick any font and character installed on your system.

When you double-click on a symbol, or select a symbol and click on Select, the symbol is copied to the area at the top-right of the dialog box. When you later click on Copy, all the information in the box is copied to the Clipboard. At this point it is a simple process to return to Excel and paste the contents of the Clipboard (the symbols) to your worksheet.

What makes using the Character Map better than using Word in the long run is that the Character Map also shows the keystroke necessary to reproduce the character. (It is at the bottom-right corner of my version of Character Map.) These keystrokes will work in any Windows program. Some of them require holding down the Alt key as you enter a code on the numeric keypad. Others simply require typing a letter. In any case, you will need to make sure that the character you enter in this way is formatted using the typeface shown in the Character Map.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2046) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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Comments for this tip:

Grant    06 Mar 2013, 06:06
Thank you PhilP.
I did finaly figure it out, and it was just as you said. So thanks non the less, I appreciate your response.
PhilP    05 Mar 2013, 12:47
Insert Symbol IS available in Excel 2007 & 2010.

On the Insert tab of the ribbon clicking the Symbol in the Symbols group will display the Character Map.

To answer Grant's query - once the symbol is in the required cell you need to select the same font in the Format option (ie. if you choose a Wing Ding symbol then you need to format the cell to the Wing Ding font)
Grant    04 Mar 2013, 05:46
I insert a special Character (Tick Symbol)into my spread sheet, but it does not use the character I select.
What do I need to do to make it display the wing ding symbol I select.
Robert O'Hagan    14 Mar 2012, 12:01
In Win 7, Character Map is under Start Menu > Programs > Accessories > System Tools. Wish they had just put it directly under accessories.
Roy Prockter    13 Mar 2012, 14:49
I copied all the special characters I'm likely to use into a blank sheet in personal.xls and can just cut and paste from there - seems quicker once set up
Larry Roberts    13 Mar 2012, 09:31
The Character Map is not as easily accessed in W7. Find it by typing Character Map in the Start Menu search box. Then nail it ti the menu.

I enjoy the tips - keep'em coming.

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