How to type characters and symbols with hotkeys in Windows [Tip]

Windows includes a Character Map from which you can copy and paste characters or symbols not included on the keyboard into documents. For a better way to enter characters and symbols, check out the WinCompose software. That enables you to enter characters or symbols with hotkeys.

Scroll down this page, and click WinCompose 0.6.13 (installer) to save the setup wizard. Install WinCompose with setup wizard, and run the software. Click the WinCompose system tray icon to open the program’s window below.


The window above shows you a list of the keyboard shortcuts that are combined with a compose key. The default compose key is right Alt. To enter a character such as ® in a document, press right Alt + o + r.

Note that you will also need to press the Shift key for some of the hotkeys. For example, the hotkey for Ð includes D and H. So that means you must press right Alt + Shift + D + H. With the Shift key some keyboard shortcuts include more than five keys. As such, it’s tricky to enter some of the hotkeys.

At the bottom of the hotkey list there’s a search box. Enter characters & symbols in the search filter to find their keyboard shortcuts.


You can customize the compose key. Select the Options tab shown below, and then click the Compose Key drop-down list to choose an alternative. However, the software doesn’t have any further options to customize the hotkeys with.


Nevertheless, WinCompose is still a handy software package. With the software you can now press hotkeys to enter characters and symbols directly into documents. WinCompose is available for both 32 and 64-bit Windows XP/Vista/7/8.

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  1. janet

    I can only get the Sequences window–not the WinCompose window in your captures. When I r-click the sys tray icon, the WinCompose option at the top is grayed out….:-(…. The other r-click options work fine. I installed the portable version.

  2. Sam Hocevar

    [@THE REALTRUTH] That’s a bit insulting. WinCompose is not bloatware. It consists of a single executable + some data for translations and rules (more than 2000 of them). It does not install extra crap, it does not modify the Windows registry, it does not alter system files, it does not record your keyboard input, it does not do anything nasty. It is also fully opensourced and you can audit the code here: . Just because something is free doesn’t mean it’s full of ads or spyware. I wrote WinCompose because I needed it and I made it free because everyone benefits from it.

    As for the ridiculous suggestion that in order to type ¿ the combination Alt-0191 is in any way easier to remember or to perform than Alt-??, I’ll let users judge from themselves. For ñ, how is Alt-0241 easier than Alt-~n? For ™, how is Alt-0153 easier than Alt-TM?

  3. hummingbird

    It is not difficult to sense your own desire just to hear yourself but you are barking on a wrong tree. THE REALTRUTH is…that I wouldn’t marry you nether. So, take it easy, will you? Just in case you have an urge to reply, do it to yourself…gently :)


    For those that don’t want to install one more program just to do another task that windows does already, if you press “Alt” and enter “0191” when you release the “Alt” key you get “¿” the upside down question mark. There is a corresponding 4 digit code for every character you could possibly want or need to type. Lets face it, how many do you think you might use on average … a list of 5 taped to your k/b is more than you think. I’ve got a text file on my desktop with a hundred or so, I never open it anymore. I’ve got the 3 I use the most memorized. Or you could install 1 more piece of bloatware. How many does this make¿?¿
    Be careful of what MatthewA advises like enabling Windows 7’s Gadgets platform to run some hoakey app he found. Once in a great while he contributes something worthwhile. I think mostly he likes to hear himself type. He’s dangerous enough to be dangerous. Now all of you that want to marry him can attack, I’m ready.

  5. Sam Hocevar

    Hi, and thanks for doing this review. I am sorry if this is not made clear in the software documentation, but you do not have to hold the Compose key during the sequence, you can release it immediately before typing the other characters. Hope this makes it less inconvenient!