I have downloaded many font viewers for the PC eg. fontlister, fontpage, easyfont viewer etc. They will all give me a character map for any font so that I can tell that “squiggle” is character 160, but none of them tell me how to access 160, e.g. shift-alt-D (I made that one up). On my old mac there were many programs that did just that, so I could navigate round a new font and quickly insert a special symbol etc.
Is this because on a PC there are so many different keyboards and thus keyboard maps, or I am I just stupid?
Under the System Tools menu (Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools), you can find the Character map, which will list all the fonts currently installed, as well as the keystrokes to produce the characters within those fonts.
are there no shortcuts? On a mac all the fonts characters are mapped to a keyboard shortcut e.g. alt-Y. I really do not want to either load up a character map and cut and paste nor type in alt01245 every time I want a cedilla
No there is no shortcut. This is because UNICODE character sets can contain hundreds of individual characters - for example, some Eastern European character sets are closer to Asian languages than Western European ones in complexity. At that point, it’s more confusing to have some CTRL+ALT+K key combo than plain old ALT+0163. And trust me - if you have to work on two or more character sets at once - ALT+0 is more of a friend than you think.
Charts of UNICODE character sets are available everywhere online. If you keep one of your wall close to your PC, you’ll find that with time you can do ALT+0 almost as fast as you can any other keyboard shortcut.
It’s nature’s way of punishing you for leaving the Mac
More seriously, shareware and freeware for the PC abounds. Check tucows and versiontracker in the PC section for a PC utility that puts a character-menu in your menubar or otherwise lets you insert any character from the active font without having to fish out Character Map every time. I’m sure they have one.
doh! I have found that Word allows you to assign key short cuts. Problem solved!
two programs I did find that looked potential useful were Popchar (fast map based character insert), better than the existing system character map, and Multiblock Storage, which allows you to define whole passages of text as well as characters to a hotkey. As both are shareware, I think I will go with the inbuilt word functionality