By Kevin Savetz
Computer users and Web site designers or bloggers struggling to remember how to type necessary symbols, accent marks and other special characters often consider the “hunt” an unwanted distraction from the project they’re working on. But it’s a problem that is usually easily remedied.
By using two or three computer keys in combination with one another, or by typing in a few characters, computer users can easily execute accent marks as well as symbols and other special characters. Currency symbols, mathematics symbols and punctuation not found on the keyboard are often tied to special “keyboard shortcuts.”
Keyboard shortcuts exist for both common symbols and for marks and characters that are used less often. There’s no need to waste time and energy with pull-down menus and trial-and-error, when guides exist to direct computer users to keyboard shortcuts.
Sometimes, the shortcut commands are different when you’re typing into a word processing document as opposed to something for the Internet. The commands may vary based on the operating system you are using as well (i.e.: Windows vs. Mac). Other combinations of keys generate the desired symbol in html, for the Web.
Symbols commonly used in mathematics, such as fractions and the square root sign, are easily executed using keyboard shortcuts. For example, the pi symbol will appear in your Windows document if you hold down the ALT key and type 0227 on the keypad. On a Mac, get pi to appear by simply holding down the Option key and pressing P. Finally, if you’re working in html, the keyboard shortcut for pi is ? or ?.
The process is similar for currency marks such as the British pound: Hold down the ALT key and type 0163; use Option 3; or type £ or £, depending what you’re doing.
Accent marks and related characters are often employed when the writer is composing text in a non-English language. For example, one combination of keys can execute the tilde often used in Spanish, while other shortcuts instantly bring up grave or acute accents, a circumflex or umlaut over vowels.
Other common symbols, marks, characters and punctuation that have keyboard shortcuts include: copyright and trademark symbols, bullets, em-dashes and en-dashes and paragraph symbols.
Memorizing the shortcuts for the symbols and characters you use most, or keeping a Web-based guide on the ready, can save time and frustration so computer users can get back to the task at hand.
Copyright 2009 by Kevin Savetz
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