Three ways to enter Unicode characters in Windows

Here are three approaches to entering Unicode characters in Windows. See the next post for entering Unicode characters in Linux.

(1) In Microsoft Word you can insert Unicode characters by typing the hex value of the character then typing Alt-x. You can also see the Unicode value of a character by placing the cursor immediately after the character and pressing Alt-x. This also works in applications that use the Windows rich edit control such as WordPad and Outlook.

Pros: Nothing to install or configure. You can see the numeric value before you turn it into a symbol. It’s handy to be able to go the opposite direction, looking up Unicode values for characters.

Cons: Does not work with many applications.

(2) Another approach which works with more applications is as follows. First create a registry key under HKEY_CURRENT_USER of type REG_SZ called EnableHexNumpad, set its value to 1, and reboot. Then you can enter Unicode symbols by holding down the Alt key and typing the plus sign on the numeric keypad followed by the character value. When you release the Alt key, the symbol will appear. This approach worked with most applications I tried, including Firefox and Safari, but did not with Internet Explorer.

Pros: Works with many applications. No software to install.

Cons: Requires a registry edit and a reboot. It’s awkward to hold down the Alt key while typing several other keys. You cannot see the numbers you’re typing. Doesn’t work with every application.

(3) Another option is to install the UnicodeInput utility. This worked with every application I tried, including Internet Explorer. Once installed, the window below pops up whenever you hold down the Alt key and type the plus sign on the numeric keypad. Type the numeric value of the character in the box, click the Send button, and the character will be inserted into the window that had focus when you clicked Alt-plus.

UnicodeInput screenshot

Pros: Works everywhere (as far as I’ve tried). The software is free. Easy to use.

Cons: Requires installing software.

Related links:

19 thoughts on “Three ways to enter Unicode characters in Windows

  1. Interesting, thanks for the tip!

    One funny side effect of one of the ways Windows handles Unicode is that if a plain text file which has only one line (no end-of-line) and has the pattern w{4} w{3} w{3} w{5} plus as many space-delimited five-character words as you like thereafter will be interpreted as Unicode, rendering gibberish.

    Some clever soul noticed that “Bush hid the facts” matches this pattern and created a political conspiracy urban legend with it.

  2. use charactermap application in systemtools.why do u need third party applications…?

  3. For the UnicodeInput utility you say “Cons: Requires installing software.”
    FALSE !

    There’s no installing necessary, you just unpack the zip archive and run unicodeinput.exe

  4. @DanD, just because it doesn’t have a built-in wizard doesn’t mean it’s not installing. Any exe that you run has full access to many places on your computer and can put files or read (more popular) from anywhere. Non-installing exe’s are the most popular spyware, not saying the unicode exe is but definitely don’t be naive about how the executables work.

  5. @Fausto Unicode isn’t fully supported in the command prompt window, which displays text using “OEM code page”, different from the “ANSI code page” used to support the non-wide Windows system calls. Typically, the OEM code page is CP437 for U.S. systems and CP850 on Western European systems. For non-ASCII characters to display properly, your program needs to encode the text in this code page before being written to the console.

  6. HKEY_CURRENT_USERControl PanelInput MethodEnableHexNumpad to 1

    Putting the key in the root directory HKEY_CURRENT_USER did not work. The author should update the post for people coming here from Google.

  7. John,

    The unicode input utility, you say it pops up when you click the ALT key. Well, some hot keys work using combinations of Alt+(some key)…and, in Photoshop, when you want to work with the Clone brush, you need to use the ALT key.

    My question is, wont this Unicode utility pop up at the wrong times? If so, is there a way to suppress it when you use another program or want the ALT key for shortcuts?

    Thanks for your help.

  8. Now a days most of the Laptops/Notebooks PCs coming newly in market, do not have any Numerical Keypad or NumLock facility.

    So Entering the +sign from Nemerical Keypad is not possible,
    nor it is possible to Enter Alt+Decimal Code of Unicode characters from Numerical Keypad, as No Numerical keypad is available.

    So please provide a easy solution, so that just pressing the Alt or Fn key or Windows Key and pressing the Decimal or Hex value of Unicode characters will type the required character.

  9. Hi John, I’m having trouble trying to use the Runic alphabet via unicode. I can type all the German umlaut letters using unicode, for instance, alt + 129 gives me ü, but I can’t seem to do the Runic alphabet. It says the Unicode block for Runic alphabets is U+16A0–U+16FF. Does this mean I still hold down the alt key, then press U16A7 for example, or just UA16A7, or what? I have tried all the combinations I can think of, but can’t reproduce any runic letters. Thanks for any help you can offer mate!

  10. Here’s a fourth:

    Run the Character Map program, built into Windows. (If you are on Vista or later, type Character Map into the Start search box to get it, or whatever the equivalent of that is on windows 8).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>