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I would like sometimes to enter Unicode characters such as a right arrow (→).

Currently, the only way I know is to use the Unicode Input application, but it's about as cumbersome as the Windows Character Map utility.

How can I type Unicode characters directly through the keyboard instead?

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4 Answers

The Alt + method (e.g., Alt + 2192) is a bit more comfortable, but it may well require a change to Windows registry.

If you frequently need to enter some special characters like arrows, you could use MSKLC to set up a keyboard layout where they can be typed directly and just switch to that layout (perhaps with a simple Ctrl 2 or something like that) when needed. Unfortunately, the most natural choice, the arrow keys, cannot be used there, but you can assign any meanings (in terms of Unicode characters) to normal keys.

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Thanks Jukka for the tip on MSKLC. –  OverTheRainbow Apr 19 '12 at 10:16
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You can use Alt codes - hold down the Alt key and type in a number on the numpad (assuming your keyboard has one). For instance, to get the → symbol, you'd hold down Alt and type 26.

For more information and a list of all possible codes, see here: http://alt-codes.org/

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Thanks for the tip. It's weird that I can get → by typing ALT+26, although Character Map says it's U+2192. 26 would mean it's part of ANSI/ASCII, although this sign/glyph isn't supposed to be part of it : www.table-ascii.com –  OverTheRainbow Apr 18 '12 at 13:53
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@OverTheRainbow: Altcodes aren't Unicode codepoints, but rather positions in so-called "ANSI" and "OEM" charsets. Their actual meanings vary depending on the OS locale, but "OEM" often means cp437, from the MS-DOS days. When put directly into a video card's text mode buffer, bytes 0..31 are interpreted as graphics from the "OEM" charset. –  grawity Apr 18 '12 at 14:05
    
Thanks. ALT+26 works in Notepad and Chrome, but does nothing in Wordpad and displays "?" in UltraEdit. –  OverTheRainbow Apr 19 '12 at 10:16
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By the way if using Linux, one can use Ctrl+Shift+U then enter the unicode character code. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alt_code

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FreeCompose adds the Compose key functionality to Windows.

You can configure it to insert on pressing Compose >, for example.

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(I haven't actually tried it; I've got in the habit of just typing out → or – when writing answers.) –  grawity Apr 18 '12 at 12:59
    
Thanks for the link on FreeCompose. I'll give it a try. That would give me a reason to put the CAPSLOCK key back on ;-) –  OverTheRainbow Apr 18 '12 at 13:54
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