A Comprensive list of all Alt Codes for special characters and symbols. Want to learn how to use Alt Key Codes?

Ever wonder how people implement unique symbols into their text? These days, we have a lot of ways to get our messages across. But back in the early days of personal computers, things weren't so easy.

Thus, alt codes were born. Alt codes gave PC users the chance to implement unique symbols and special characters that weren't part of the American Standard Code for Information Interchange, or ASCII. The codes were a sort of "secret input" to take advantage of characters that we couldn't type with a single keystroke.

Alt codes are still relevant today. They're used by coders, designers, and multi-linguists to provide clarity in their text.

What Are Alt Codes?

To put it simply, Alt codes are a way to input unique characters when you don't have a specific symbol tool or specialty keyboard. Originally developed by IBM for DOS systems, these codes are appropriately named after the "ALT" key on the keyboard. To use an Alt code, you must hold down the ALT key and press a series of numbers. Codes can vary from one to four digits. Each combination of numbers represents a specific character. The codes can generate a wide variety of symbols, including diacritics, quirky icons, and non-printable control characters.

History of Alt Codes

The legacy of Alt codes goes all the way back to 1981 with the release of the IBM Personal Computer. The IBM PC had a huge impact on the personal computers we know today. It influenced everything from design, software architecture, and even Alt codes!

Programmers at IBM needed a way to input characters from the IBM Code Page 437 / DOS. The ALT key already existing and modified functions of existing keys on the keyboard. So, they combined the ALT key with numerical codes to generate symbols. The original set for Code Page 437 / DOS featured 256 codes utilizing the numbers 0 through 255.

The Alt code system became very popular with users. Many memorized codes and keystroke patterns to implement the symbols at breakneck speeds.

Eventually, Microsoft came out with their own character sets for Windows, which was called Windows Code Page 1252. However, the original Alt codes from the IBM PC were so popular among users that Microsoft decided to keep them. To avoid confusion, Microsoft added the ability to use its proprietary Windows characters by adding a leading zero. Originally, the maximum number of digits for Alt codes was three. But the implementation of the leading zero upped it up to four digits.

The new set, including the original Alt codes and the Windows proprietary codes, was named ANSI. Later, Microsoft and PC users started to colloquially refer to them as Windows Codes. The old ones became known as Original Equipment Manufacturer, or OEM codes.

Windows later switched to Unicode. All of the same Alt codes still apply. However, using them can be a bit finicky on some applications. Also, you cannot use Unicode values to input them with the Alt key.

How Many Alt Codes Are There?

There are hundreds of Alt codes. 512 to be exact!

The original set included 256 codes, which used codes between 0 and 255. The first 126 of those codes mapped out well to the US English keyboard. Everything after that, which was called ANSI, is a bit tricker to input. But, they work well in most applications.

Microsoft added an additional 256 codes to the new system, bringing the total up to 512. All codes can be separated into specific groups based on their uses

OEM Code Page 437 Characters

The first group of characters applies to codes Alt 0 through Alt 31. Alt 127 is included as well. These characters are graphic-based symbols. They include things like hearts, smiley faces, etc.

The second group covers code Alt 32 through Alt 126. These are printable characters that reflect language symbols. You will see Latin letters, special digits, unique punctuation marks, and more.

Finally, there are codes Alt 128 to Alt 255. This group of characters includes diacritics, which are accent marks that represent pronunciation. The set also has Greek letters, mathematic symbols, line-drawing symbols, and more.

Windows Code Page 1252

Codes Alt 0 to Alt 031, plus Alt 0127, don't display characters. None of the "symbols" for these codes are printable. Instead, they control characters associated with teletype transmission. For example, you'll see things like Line Feed or Carriage Return.

The second group of 1252 codes covers Alt 032 to Alt 0126. This group shares the same symbols as the second group of the OEM 437 characters. The codes produce the same Latin letters, punctuation marks, etc.

Codes Alt 0128 to Alt 0255 produce special characters for international text and diacritics. These symbols are more complex than those in the OEM 437 set. They cover Latin-1 languages, which include Danish, Finnish, Spanish, and a host of other languages.

How to Make an Alt Code

Creating an Alt code is very simple. First, make sure that your Number Lock is on.

Then, hold down the ALT key and type in an Alt code with the numerical pad. Once you release the ALT key, the corresponding symbol will appear. It's as easy as that!

There are many resources available to find symbols and corresponding codes. Familiarize yourself with them and you can use them like a coding master!

Alt codes are a great trick to know. They are a big part of computer history and continue to be used by many around the globe. While rich editors, heavily-coded pages, and Windows registry settings can make Alt codes not appear, they will work just fine in most programs. Open up a simple text editor and try some codes for yourself!



How do I Type Out an Alt code on a keyboard?

For example, let's type a degree symbol by using its Alt Code value on the keyboard.

  • Make sure you switch on the NumLock
  • press and hold down the Alt key
  • type the Alt Code value of the degree symbol 0176 on the numeric pad release the Alt key and you got a ° degree symbol.
** Above mentioned procedure is not aplicable for MacOS.