Inserting Symbols

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 20, 2017)

8

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.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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Comments

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What is two minus 2?

2016-11-07 14:17:10

Stan

Once you have an Excel cell with a symbol in it you cannot cut and past the cell with the symbol into another cell, the symbol font changes to the font of the cell and you get a letter, for example the Delta symbol becomes D in the cell that you past into.


2015-12-06 01:30:05

Peter Furnish

Hi Allen,
You have a great, easy to read web page! However despite the clarity of the instructions for inserting symbols from the character map I'm unable to find the 'TICK MARK' anywhere. I know you are also able to enter an ALT code from the keyboard BUT first you have to find the symbol! I have spent well over an hour trying to insert a tick in my EXCEL 2010 spreadsheet to no avail.
Pretty please are you able to assist?
Kind regards
Peter


2013-03-06 06:06:19

Grant

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.


2013-03-05 12:47:42

PhilP

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)


2013-03-04 05:46:25

Grant

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.


2012-03-14 12:01:20

Robert O\'Hagan

In Win 7, Character Map is under Start Menu > Programs > Accessories > System Tools. Wish they had just put it directly under accessories.


2012-03-13 14:49:49

Roy Prockter

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


2012-03-13 09:31:08

Larry Roberts

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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