Inserting Symbols

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 13, 2012)

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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