Windows 10 tip: Access symbols, emojis, and other special characters

Entering special characters, including foreign currency symbols, fractions, and emoji, is a cumbersome task on most physical keyboards. Use this hidden Windows 10 option to open an on-screen keyboard that puts all those characters at your fingertips.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor
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Entering special characters in Windows can be inconvenient if those characters aren't supported directly by your desktop or laptop keyboard. In earlier versions of Windows, your only options are to memorize ANSI codes (which require a numeric keypad to enter) or to use a separate utility like Character Map (which is useful but clunky).

Beginning with Windows 10 version 1709 (the so-called Fall Creators Update), the capability to enter emojis is built-in. Just press Windows key + ; (semicolon).

For earlier versions, or to enter symbols and special characters, use the touch keyboard. Don't be fooled by that name. The touch keyboard responds just fine to mouse clicks. This keyboard appears automatically if you're using a touchscreen-equipped Windows 10 PC in Tablet PC mode. Here's how to make sure it's at the ready even if you're using a conventional PC without a touchscreen.

The Touch Keyboard button appears just to the left of the clock, on the right side of the taskbar. If it's not visible, right-click any empty space on the taskbar to open the taskbar customization menu and then click the Show touch keyboard button option.

Click the Touch Keyboard button while working in any desktop program or Windows 10 app to slide up the on-screen keyboard. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Click any letter or symbol and hold the mouse button down to see variations of that letter, including those with accents and diacritical marks. On the symbols layout, for example, click and hold the 1/2 symbol to see eight additional fractions.
  • Click the button labeled &123 to change from the standard QWERTY layout to one filled with symbols. Use the right and left arrows just above that button to display a second screen full of symbols, including symbols for the Euro and British Pound on a U.S. English configuration.
  • Click the smiley face to display a keyboard layout filled with emojis and emoticons. Use the icons to the right to change to different groups of emojis, each of which has additional layouts available using the left and right arrow below Tab.

Click anywhere outside the keyboard or resume typing on your physical keyboard to hide the touch keyboard.

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