Whenever you want to insert a special character into a document, Google Docs is happy to oblige with its library of built-in symbols, emojis, and punctuation marks. But the whole process of adding can be a tedious task. For example, having to repeatedly access the list of special characters from Google Docs itself can be mind-boggling.
This is why the five ways I have listed below should make your life easier when inserting special characters in Google Docs. From faster access to the library of special characters, quick search for objects, creation of shortcuts for your favorite characters, you will quickly realize that working with them is not as bad as before.
1. Open the library of special characters faster
To access the Insert special characters in Google Docs area, you must first open the Insert menu, then click Special characters. Interrupts your workflow.
Instead, use the Alt + I + C key combination to access the Insert Special Characters area more quickly. If you’re using Google Docs on a Mac, the combo of keys gets slightly longer – Ctrl + Option + I + C.
Then it’s as usual – use the filter menus or the search box to find the special character you want.
2. Draw a special character
Unable to locate a certain character with the filter menus or the search box? Why not find it by drawing it instead?
Make an approximate sketch of the character – not necessarily perfect – in the empty area under the search bar, and Google Docs will automatically filter the characters that closely match what you drew. It works incredibly well, so give it a try.
3. Insert a Unicode value
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of having to repeatedly search or draw a special character, use its Unicode value instead. First, filter the character, then place the cursor over it. You should see the unicode value, something in the form of U + xxxx.
Next time, just put the letters and numbers at the end of the Unicode value (omit “U +”) in the search box for faster filtering. You may want to validate the Unicode values of frequently used special characters in memory.
4. Automatic substitution
An even faster way to insert a special character is to use the auto-substitution feature in Google Docs. Setup takes a little bit of work, but once you have it in place, inserting frequently used special characters should be a breeze.
Step 1: Insert a special character into a document as you normally would.
2nd step: Copy the special character to your clipboard.
Step 3: Open the Tools menu, then click Preferences.
Step 4: Insert any character on your keyboard (preferably a combo of characters) in the Replace box. This character or character set will be replaced by the special character each time you enter them in a document. Then paste the special character (press the key combination Ctrl + V or Cmd + V) in the With box.
Step 5: Type the character or the set of characters, press Space and voila! The special character should appear instead.
You can add as many substitutions as you want. Try to refrain from using common key combinations for your substitutions as they could interfere with your normal workflow.
5. Alt or Option shortcuts
Another method for inserting special characters is to use Alt code shortcuts. These codes allow you to insert the majority of special characters by holding down the Alt key while inserting a code in the numeric keypad. For example, the code shortcut Alt + 0169 allows you to easily insert the Copyright symbol.
Note: On keyboards without a dedicated numeric keypad, use the FN key in conjunction with the Alt key when entering numeric characters via the numeric line.
On the Mac, things work a little differently. You must use the Option or Option + Shift keys in conjunction with various alphanumeric keys to insert special characters. For example, inserting the Copyright symbol is a simple matter of pressing Option + G.
For a list of Alt or Option shortcuts, refer to the appropriate lists by clicking on the buttons below:
The best thing about Alt or Option shortcuts is that you can use them to insert special characters into any word processor. They are not limited to Google Docs.
With the tips above, inserting special characters into Google Docs should be a breeze. The first three tips should help you get to your favorite characters faster. But if you’re dealing with them all the time, don’t forget to use alternate shortcuts or Alt / Option to make the process incredibly easier.
I love using the auto substitution feature – it’s my favorite way to insert the dashboard into Google Docs. But what is yours? Are there other ways to insert special characters that you know? Share them in the comments.
Did you know that you can insert YouTube videos into your Google Docs documents? Here’s how.
Last updated on February 18, 2020