How to Insert Special Characters and Symbols in Excel (2022)

Most computer keyboards allow you to enter common special characters and symbols.

But what if you need less common symbols like arrows ↑↓←→ ?

Or foreign characters with accents like Á, Ñ, and Ü?

Fortunately, Microsoft Excel has several options to insert special characters and symbols.

And in this tutorial, you will learn all about these options.

➯ So open up a new workbook and follow along!

Insert symbols and special characters from the symbols menu

The first method uses Excel’s built-in Symbols Menu.

To open the Symbols menu:

1. Click the Insert tab in the Excel Ribbon.

2. On the right side of the Insert tab, click Symbols, then click the Symbol button.

The Symbol button can be found on the right side of the Insert tab ribbon

This opens the Symbol dialog box where you can select from hundreds of different symbols.

The Symbol dialog box simplifies the insert symbol process in Excel

The terms symbols and special characters are often used interchangeably. But Microsoft Excel and other Office products group these two into separate tabs.

Symbols consist of a large collection of characters and symbols. These are available in different fonts and languages.

Special characters are much fewer. They are usually used for text and paragraph formatting.

The Special Characters tab - insert symbols from here

3. You can select symbols from different groups by clicking on the Subsets drop-down.

The are several language scripts such as Greek and Latin. There are also subsets for mathematical operators, currency symbols, and more.

Use the Subset selector to find different symbols

4. As with the alphabet and numbers, symbols will vary in form across different font sets.

To view a different font, click on the Font selector and pick the right font for your needs.

You can select fonts like the Elephant font to make your symbols more impactful

You can try fonts like Webdings and Wingdings to choose from many more fun and unique symbols!

Fonts like Webdings allow you to insert symbols that are very creative and unique

5. To insert symbols, click on your desired symbol then click the Insert button.

Click the Insert button at the bottom of the dialog box to insert the selected symbol

Pro-tip: Learning your favorite symbols

When you select a symbol, its Unicode character code appears on the bottom right of the Symbol dialog box.

Input ASCII or Unicode codes to quickly find your desired symbol

You can change the Unicode character codes to display in ASCII (decimal) and ASCII (hex).

Take note of the character codes of your favorite symbols. In the future, you can input codes in the Character code box to quickly find and select your desired symbol.

Insert special characters with ‘Alt codes’

You can also insert symbols and special characters into Excel using your keyboard’s number pad.

To do so, hold down the Alt key then enter the corresponding Alt character code on the number pad.

Here are a few examples of Alt code shortcut keys:

  • Alt + 1 inserts a smiley symbol ☺
  • Alt + 3 inserts a heart symbol ♥

If you do not have a number pad, you can input Alt codes using the Windows on-screen keyboard.

How to insert a special character in Excel using the on-screen keyboard:

1. Press the Windows key + Ctrl + O to open the on-screen keyboard. ⌨️

The mouse is used to press keys on the on-screen keyboard. This means that you cannot press and hold Alt along with the digits on the on-screen keyboard’s number pad.

Instead, you can lock the Alt key using Sticky Keys.

2. Press the Shift five times on your physical keyboard to turn on Sticky Keys.

3. Now you can lock the Alt key by pressing Alt on your physical keyboard twice.

Alt on the on-screen keyboard will remain highlighted if the Alt lock is enabled

4. With Alt locked, enter the Alt character code on the number pad of the on-screen keyboard.

For example, you can try entering 0-1-6-9. Alt + 0169 corresponds to the copyright symbol ©.

5. Press Alt again to release the Alt lock. Excel will then insert the symbol.

How to insert special characters in Excel using the on-screen keyboard and Alt character codes

You can browse through Alt character code lists available online like this one.

Make sure to type the code on the number pad exactly as shown. If an Alt character code has leading zeros, type the zeros in the number pad as well. Otherwise, the result may be different.

Alternatively method

You can also search for Alt character codes in the Windows Character Map:

To open it:

Press the Windows key + R > Type “charmap” > Hit Enter

Make sure that the Advanced view option is checked to view the additional fields

The keyboard shortcut or Alt code of the selected character is shown at the bottom of the Character Map window.

You can also use the Search field to find a special character using keywords. 🔍

Great work so far!

Now you know two different ways of inserting symbols into Excel.

As you can see, it is fast and easy to use Alt shortcut keys. But this is only efficient if you have a number pad with your keyboard.

As for the built-in Symbols menu, you have to scroll through hundreds of available symbols. This can be tedious and dizzying 😵 if you don’t already know where to look.

So, this brings us to the easiest way of inserting symbols into Excel.

Copy paste special characters and symbols into Excel from anywhere

There are lots of different websites to copy symbols and special characters from.

Our favorites are the Wikipedia list of Unicode characters and CopyChar!

To copy a symbol or special character:

1. Highlight it then press Ctrl + C

Use Ctrl + C to copy the highlighted symbol to the clipboard

2. Then in your Excel worksheet, select the cell where you want to paste.

3. Paste the copied symbol into the cell.

You can select different Paste Options using the drop down menu

For the best results, press Ctrl + Shift + V to paste as value only. By doing so, the look of the pasted symbol will match the current cell font.

Learn more about copy and paste here.

You can also use copy and paste in Excel to insert emojis, icons, and other fun & unique symbols!
Kasper Langmann, Microsoft Office Specialist

That’s it – Now what?

It is easy to insert symbols and special characters in Microsoft Excel.

You can use the built-in symbols menu, Alt shortcuts, and copy & paste to enhance your workbook!

But dealing with symbols and special characters is a small part of your work within Excel.

If you want to work more professionally (and much faster!) in Excel, do consider enrolling in my free 30-minute online course here!

Other resources

One of the most commonly used symbols in Excel are check marks ✔ ✔️ and checkboxes ☑ ✅.

But did you know that you can insert active checkboxes in Excel?

Check out my tutorial on checkboxes to learn more!

You can also watch my YouTube video to see checkboxes live in action.