The Translator’s Tool Box - © International Writers’ Group, LLC
• The archaic way: The Character Map. You can either start this under
Start> (All) Programs> Accessories> System Tools> Character
Map, or through a slightly modified version within Word under Insert>
Symbol (> More Symbols). Here you can find all the supported symbols
and characters for each individual font to select and paste into your text.
This is a great choice for the casual non-English user, but certainly not for
the professional translator.
• The Word-centric way: Word provides a number of keyboard shortcuts to
enter special characters, such as C
+@ followed by "a" for "å".
You can find a full list of these under word.mvps.org/faqs/general/
insertspecchars.htm or in your Word help system. However, there are two
problems with this: you still need two keys to get to your special
characters and, even worse, once you leave Word you’re lost.
• The Word-centric way, part II: Customized shortcuts within Word. You can
select a character in the Word Character Map (see above), click Shortcut
Key, press the key combination you want to use (i.e., an A
or a function key), and then click Assign. Not good either. Though you can
get by with just one keystroke combination, you’re still lost outside of
Word or on any computer other than your own.
• The work-out way, aka the ASCII code: This poor but unbelievably popular
way among translators consists or four (4!) keystrokes for one character.
To activate this, make sure that you have your NUM LOCK key enabled
(the small keypad on the right of your keyboard), and type the number of
that character on the small keypad as you press the ALT key. The above-
mentioned "å" has the key combination 0228. Phew! Again, a great way to
train your memory to remember all kinds of code and exercise your finger
muscles, but this certainly is not conducive to a productive work
Clearly, things can’t be as bad as these methods suggest, and most of you
know that the best way by far for dealing with special international characters
is by installing a language-specific or the US-International keyboard.
First things first, though. For the uninitiated, there is a distinction between a
virtual and a physical keyboard. The physical keyboard is the hardware
keyboard that you use to type and on which every key is labeled with a certain
letter, number or symbol. If you bought your computer in the U.S., chances