Software

Assign a keystroke shortcut to insert a symbol or special character

If you insert the same symbol or special character often, you should use a custom shortcut to bypass the ribbon route and save yourself time.

A few tips ago, I showed you how to use Word’s no-width optional break character to break a long string of characters at a designated spot. If you enter special characters or symbols frequently, going the Insert tab route can get a bit tedious - they're five and six layers deep. Fortunately, you can easily assign a custom keyboard shortcut to such a repetitive task. A keyboard shortcut is much quicker than the Insert tab route.

When assigning a keystroke shortcut to enter a symbol or special character, begin by accessing the character as you normally would:

  1. Click the Insert tab, click Symbol in the Symbols group, and then choose More Symbols. In Word 2003, choose Symbol from the Insert menu.
  2. To find the no-width optional break character, click the Special Characters tab. (You can also use this technique to insert symbols on the Symbols tab. )
  3. Select the no-width optional break character.
  4. Now this is where the process takes a different route. Instead of clicking Insert, click the Shortcut Key button to open the Customize Keyboard dialog box.
  5. The selected character or symbol will appear in the Commands control. The Current Keys control will display an existing shortcut, if there is one. (You can use the existing shortcut or create a new one.)
  6. The cursor should be in the Press New Shortcut Key control. Press the keys you want to assign as the shortcut. Pick a combination that you can associate with the character, if possible, so it’s easy to remember. In this case, you might try [Alt]+n. If you type a shortcut that’s already in use, Word will display it below the Current Keys control. (If you this happens, delete the keys and try again, unless you want to overwrite the existing assignment.)
  7. Click Assign and then Close.
  8. Click Cancel to return to the document.

You can save the shortcut in a template or the current document. Now, the no-width optional break character is only two keystrokes away!

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

7 comments
czytacz
czytacz

Many thanks for this tip and for the earlier one on the no-width optional break character--and for so many other useful tips. This should have been an ideal and easy way to assign the no-width optional break character to a shortcut key, but it turned out not to be--at least not in the Word version I use (2003 SP3). Whatever shortcut key I tried to assign this character to, it never produced this sign. What it did produce instead was this: 1) the cursor got a spike on the left side of its top; 2) the font was changed into Times Roman, Arial or Courier depending on the type of font I was using-- serif, sans serif or monospaced; 3) the cursor made strange jumps if it was moved over the typed word by means of one of the arrow keys. So I assume I met a bug. In the end I did manage to assign the no-width optional break character to a shortcut key by recording a macro of its insertion and assigning that macro to the key of my choice. Henk Proeme

clcoronios
clcoronios

(and this MAY work for non-Windows apps - don't know, never used one) is to assign one or two letters as an AutoCorrect (this is what it's called in Windows - don't know if other apps have similar). For instance, I use SS for the section symbol. Note: that might not work if you deal with Social Security). If you're not familiar with AutoCorrect, in Word 2007, follow Susan's directions - but instead of hitting Shortcut Key, hit AutoCorrect - and type in your 'code' for the symbol. We also use this when we use both full names and abbreviations for companies/agencies, but we add a 'code' to the abbreviation to differentiate. For instance - we use 'spellAGY' when we want the full name of the agency. Could be * or - or whatever 'code' you choose.

asiaflt
asiaflt

Hi Susan I am familiar with the Windows way of doing this. Do you have any of your magic to use in Open Office? I can't find an easy way so far. For example: I would like to use directly on email and other electronic documents (Google) instead of going via an open document. Regards, Kenny

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you have a favorite keyboard shortcut that you assigned yourself? One that is a default that you find yourself using all the time?

david.hanshumaker
david.hanshumaker

I like to use AutoCorrect to insert formatted text, usually subscripted or superscripted numbers. To do this, enter the formatted text into the document the usual way. Then highlight it and go to the AutoCorrect dialog box. Click the button to replace with Formatted Text, and type in the string you'd like to use. For instance, I can type in na2s2o3, and it will correct to Na2S2O3, where the numbers are subscripted. This saves a lot of time and moving back and forth from keyboard to mouse.

ssharkins
ssharkins

I think you're asking how to assign a universal shortcut that would work in any app? Is this correct?

Shadeburst
Shadeburst

Windows 2007 onwards deeply suck. In the GOD (good old days) you could assign complicated key sequences to a command button and add it to a toolbar. Now we only have the quick access toolbar which quickly becomes overcrowded. It's all been dumbed down for the lowest common denominator and that means slower clumsier operation.

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