How to type the ‘Numero’ symbol and other special characters – there’s many ways to do it.
It all started with a single, seemingly simple, question from a reader. As often happens, the question opens up a whole range of options in Office
Entering the Numero sign
“How can I enter the real numero character in Word – not the substitutes most people use but the original proper symbol” – Jack W, Milton Keynes UK.
The numero character is usually typed as ” No. ” (capital N, lowercase o then a fullstop/period) or No (capital N then lowercase and superscripted o) or N° (capital N plus the degree sign) but as Jack says that’s just a substitute for the real symbol.
It looks like two characters but is actually a single symbol and a single character in a font.
To enter the real numero symbol you have various options depending on what program you’re using:
In Office applications use the Insert | Symbol then scroll down the list until you find the Numero symbol:
It’s near the fractions and arrows. Once you insert a symbol once it’s added to the Recently used symbols list.
If you add a symbol a lot you might want a faster way to type it in – in that case you have various choices:
Alt + X trick
In Word 2003 and 2007 you can type the hexadecimal character number then Alt + X – for Numero type 2116 then Alt + X
Make a shortcut
Click on the Shortcut Key button (in Insert | Symbol) and create a custom shortcut for that symbol.
Some characters have in-built Office shortcuts, they are shown on the bottom of the Insert | Symbol dialog box.
Click on the AutoCorrect button (in Insert | Symbol) and make a text string that is automatically converted into the symbol. This is our preference because it works automatically and often doesn’t require you to remember anything. For example you could make an Autocorrect entry to convert the standard typing No. into the symbol:
Decimal vs Hexadecimal
Be careful about which numbering system applies to a character number – character sets can use decimal (base 10) or hexadecimal (base 16). Sometimes it’s obvious because there are letters in the number (eg 00AB) but other times it’s not ( 2116 is hexadecimal for the Numero symbol not decimal).
The reason for the two systems is the growing size of character sets. Early computers used the ASCII character set of 255 symbols which is enough for most western languages. These days we have the Unicode character set which has the potential for 100.000 characters – at that size it’s more convenient for programmers to work in hexadecimal.
Most characters used in western languages are in the ASCII 255 character range but some like Numero and ‘Care of’ are in the extended Unicode set.
Outside of Microsoft Office you have the Windows accessory Character Map which is the operating system equivalent of Insert Symbol. Anywhere in Windows you can insert any character by typing the decimal character number (as four digits, for example ‘ 0133’ or ‘ 0128 ‘) on the keyboard number pad (not the numbers above the letters) while holding down the Alt key.
Another option is to enter the symbol in Word and copy it from there to the other program.
Finally, for the sake of completeness, on web pages you can use special HTML to enter any character once you know the decimal or hexadecimal character reference. For the Numero character enter № (decimal) or № (hexadecimal). Check the page encoding setting to make sure it includes the characters you’re entering.
Armed with one or several of the above options you can enter other characters that are not on most English based keyboards. Some of these are:
Guillemets / Angle Quotes
Ctrl+` then Ctrl+` then
[email protected] then space
While the basic QUERTY layout is fixed there can be regional variations to make typing in other languages easier. For example some keyboards will have the Euro, Pound or Yen symbols included.
Keep in mind that the font you use has to include the characters you’re trying to enter. That’s not a problem with most commercial fonts which should have a wide range of characters but some free or fancy fonts might be limited to letters and simple punctuation.
If you enter a character that’s not available in the selected font you’ll see a ‘box’ character instead. Try switching to another font – Arial Unicode MS is a good choice because it contains over 38,000 characters across many languages and technical uses.
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