How to use Alt codes on a laptop?
October 31, 2006 1:05 PM   Subscribe

Alt codes.Straight forward enough.Press Alt and then the four digit number.Except my daughters laptop doesn't have an alpha-numeric keyboard and that row of numbers above QWERTYUIOP don't work.Google has failed me.Oh me retain my status as Mr.Know It All.
posted by Dr.Pill to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
Most laptops have a section of the keyboard that works as a numeric keypad. They'll have the numbers in light type on them. You'd use the Num Loc or the Fn key to activate it. For example, the keys involved might be:
posted by winston at 1:10 PM on October 31, 2006

On my laptop, I have to press the function key (it's labeled as "fn" in blue on my keyboard), which allows me to access the alternate functions on my keys. For me, the numpad is laid out like this (number pad in italics, actual keys in caps):


On preview, what winston said.
posted by sbrollins at 1:11 PM on October 31, 2006

On preview, what they said.

Note that on my laptop, I need to press Alt, Fn, and the numbers in a row. Very annoying, but it works.
posted by niles at 1:14 PM on October 31, 2006

If your daughter has to type accented characters very often, using the US International Keyboard layout is much faster than entering ALT+ keycodes (even when you have a standard keypad). You can switch it on when you want to type accents for a French paper or whatever and go back to US standard when you're done.
posted by Doctor Barnett at 1:19 PM on October 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

For the point and clickers out there, you can use character map for the same purpose. No geek points awarded for knowing the alt codes, sadly.

Start menu > Programs > Accessories > Systems Tools > Character Map
posted by Andrew Brinton at 2:49 PM on October 31, 2006

I know most of the Alt-codes for accents (used to do my French homework in printed-out papers), but for some reason using the Fn+Alt to do the numeric keypad things usually end up equating to a browser back button or something whenever I go to try to make a symbol online. I have to use character map on laptops usually.
posted by vanoakenfold at 9:36 PM on October 31, 2006

On Windows, which is probably what you're using (Macs have a very awesome system to type accents, for example, option-e is é), there is a trick I've started to use that I think very few people know about that makes it almost as quick as it is on a Mac.

[This became really long, but trust me, it's cool. Skip to the end for a second if you're wondering what the result looks like.]

If you go into Control Panel -> Regional and Language Options, the Languages tab, Details button, you will come to the Text Services window, where you can edit the input settings that your installation of Windows uses. For most people here the list will just have one variant of English listed, "Keyboard", and one type of keyboard ("US", or "United Kingdom" I'm guessing for you, Dr.Pill, due to your profile.)

So what I do is add a new item to the list, using the button to the right of it. For me the language is English (United States), use whichever language is your default, but make the Keyboard layout/IME "United States-International". Click "OK".

Then, go to the Key Settings window by clicking on that button in the Text Services window. You'll probably want to deactivate "Switch between input languages", if it appears in the list - select it and click "Change key sequence", uncheck the box, click OK. Then select your usual (default) keyboard layout, click "Change key sequence", check the box and set it to a key combination that'll be useful that you'll remember. I use Ctrl+Shift+1. Click OK there, then do the same for "United States-International", using a different combination (I use Ctrl+Shift+2, very clever I know.) Finally, click OK on the Advanced Key Settings window (the one you're looking at now), in the Text Services window, and in the Regional and Language Options window, each.

If Windows asks you to do anything like restart, go ahead and do it, although I really don't think it will.

Anyway, now, you'll have the ability to switch quickly between your usual layout and the International layout. Normally, you won't care, but the second you want to type something in, say, Français, you switch to International (using your chosen key combo, e.g. Ctrl+Shift+2), and then you can type accented characters by typing the accent and then the character. Then you can switch back to normal typing with Ctrl+Shift+1.

'e -> é | `e -> è | ^u -> û
'c -> ç | "o -> ö | ^^ -> ^

Another benefit is that the right-side Alt key on your keyboard then becomes a different modifier key, technically AltGr, and you can use it to type things like €, which is AltGr+5. (Right side alt key + 5.) You may already have a key for € if you have a UK keyboard, but in North America we get pretty spartan keyboards.

The wikipedia keyboard layout article has more information on the US International layout.
posted by blacklite at 12:15 AM on November 1, 2006 [2 favorites]

Oh, I lied, ^^ doesn't become ^. ^^ becomes ^^. If you type a combination that doesn't become a letter, it just gets typed, but it doesn't happen until your second keypress.

e.g., if I am in the US International layout and I press the ^ key, nothing appears on the screen. That keypress isn't interpreted until the next keypress, because ^ is a modifier character. Once I press the next key, it either becomes an accented letter (if possible) or both ^ and the key I just pressed appear on my screen at once. If you want to type just plain ^ and it will be followed by an accentable character, you have to type ^[space].

I'm making it sound much more complicated than it is; give it a whirl, it is actually really great.
posted by blacklite at 12:20 AM on November 1, 2006

If you need to insert special characters in a late-model Microsoft Office product, you can do it by entering the Unicode code for the character, followed by Alt+X.
posted by grouse at 3:43 AM on November 1, 2006

Sorted...thanks to all.
posted by Dr.Pill at 12:20 PM on November 2, 2006

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