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!


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.

Editor's Picks