Insert symbols faster with the Alt + X trick in Word and Outlook

Quickly insert symbols, characters and emoji in Microsoft Word and Outlook without taking your fingers off the keyboard using a feature that’s been in Word (for Windows) for many years.

Inserting Symbols into Word documents is a pain, go up to the ribbon Insert | Symbols | Symbol which takes time … or you can use a trick from the 20th century to keep your fingers on the keyboard.

Type in the hexadecimal Unicode value of the symbol you want, then press Alt + X – the value will be changed to the Symbol automatically.

Alt + X feature has been in Word for Windows for a long time — at least since Word XP (Office XP released in 2001). They work on any Microsoft Word for Windows, no special setup or configuration required.

It also works in Outlook for Windows because the email editor in Outlook is really Word in disguise <g>.

Alt + X trick – step-by-step

Having trouble? Here’s the step-by-step … start with a common symbol that most fonts support. Try 20AC for the Euro symbol or A3 for the £ Pound currency sign.

  1. type a Unicode value into Word document or Outlook email
    • upper or lower case e.g. 20ac 20aC 20Ac or 20AC all work the same
    • NOT the U+ prefix that’s often used before Unicode values (it’s a programming thing). e.g. type 20AC not U+20AC .
    • No space or other keys after typing the symbol value.
  2. hold down the Alt key
    • either left or right Alt key
  3. while holding down the Alt key press the X key
    • upper or lower case e.g. X or x both work the same.

An example to enter the Euro currency symbol €

  1. Type 20ac or 20AC
  2. hold down the Alt key
  3. press the X key while holding down the Alt key.


  • Leading zeroes aren’t necessary00A5 and A5 both work to make the Yen symbol.
  • Case doesn’t mattera9 and A9 both work to make the Copyright symbol.
  • Make a mistake? – as always, Undo is your friend – Ctrl + Z

Common Alt + X symbol codes

No one expects you to remember all the hex codes, after all there are over 40,000 of them in Unicode. Just remember the ones you need to most.

The British Pound Sterling symbol £ isn’t on a lot of keyboards even in the former colonies😊 If you need £ – type A3 then Alt + X.

Here’s a few common Alt + X shortcuts plus others we are often asked about with their shortcuts that are baked into Office itself.

Another option is to make an AutoCorrect shortcut but that requires setup on each computer you use.  Learning the few Alt + X shortcuts you need will work on any copy of Microsoft Word without any setup or configuration.

Alt + X works with Emoji

With modern Word and recent Windows, Alt + X will also work for emoji. Emoji numbers are longer (five characters) because they are relatively recent additions to the Unicode system.

For example type 1F923 then Alt + X to get the Rolling on Floor laughing emoji 🤣

Admittedly, the five-character values/codes aren’t easily memorable, but they might suit you.

All Office-Watch articles about symbols or emoji include the Unicode character number, ready to use in Word for Windows.

Alt + X in reverse to show Unicode

Alt + X also works in reverse to show the Unicode number for a single character.

  1. Select a single character or place the cursor after the symbol.
    • Selecting more than one character, even a space, and the shortcut won’t work.
  2. Press Alt + X – the Unicode number will appear. E.G. A = 0041 £ = 00A3 🤣 = 1F923
  3. Press Alt + X again to go back to seeing the character.

This trick does NOT work for all characters, for example an emoji inserted from the Windows Emoji Panel

Word and Outlook only

Such a useful shortcut, you’d think it would work in Excel and PowerPoint too.

But no.  For reasons passing understanding, this incredibly useful feature is only in Word for Windows and Outlook (which uses Word as the email editor).

Windows only

And it’s only in Word/Outlook for Windows.

Word for Mac should support Alt + X (or a similar key combo).  While MacOS does have other and better symbol entry features, Alt + X should be in Office for Mac.  It would be more consistent and help people who switch between the two main Office programs (Windows and Mac).

Word Online?   What about the browser based version of Word?  No help there either.  And Alt + X would be especially useful in Word Online because the Insert | Symbol feature is very limited.

Windows 10 and 11 has (finally) an Emoji Panel which also inserts symbols .