Insert Special Characters W/Out Number Pad (Laptop) Easily?

There are some special characters that I use frequently. Because of my National Novel Writing Month novels have been set in the same universe, one that I’ll be needing frequently in November will be the ash (æ), although I do like the em dash as a type of punctuation. There are a few others that I use at home, especially in the context of novel writing.

The problem is that I’ve got a laptop that doesn’t have a dedicated number pad. So, I have to hit fn+numlock, and then alt+0230 (after hunting for the numbers on the make-shift pad), and then fn+numlock again, which becomes a royal hassle after a while. In addition, using the copy & paste option on the character map is also troublesome. I’m also not the type to let a known typo sit to be fixed later, so the idea of typing some alternative and then replacing it later seems unpalatable to me, especially if I’ve used a character as a proxy and have completely forgotten that I wanted to change it.

Granted, these may not be that time consuming, but they do seriously break up the flow, which a simple æ (alt+0230) does not do. I’m not using MS Word (or Works), so the usual character replacements don’t work for common words. (E.g., replacing “oraed” with “oræd”.) I really don’t want to go around hunting for freeware word processors, when I’m happy with what I’ve got (Roughdraft).

So, is there a way to make the alt+#### work on the regular number keys on the keypad, rather than having to do it on the number pad proper? And, if there is a way to do this, how does one do it?

I will enjoy any help you can offer.

Best suggestion I can think of is to collect all of the special characters you’re likely to use into a single text document and keep it open in Notepad behind your document; copy-pasting from that has got to be easier than using Character Map. I don’t know of any way to make it more integrated.

Hardware solution: get a full-sized keyboard (a USB one if your laptop has no PS/2 port.

I wonder if those USB keypad-only devices for laptops emulate an actual keypad, enabling entry of special characters… anybody got one?

The Notepad idea is good. There are software utilities as well.

http://www.download.com/PopChar-Win/3000-2316_4-10540933.html?tag=lst-0-8

You could use the “US International” keyboard setting, which activates dead keys and extended characters. This page from Microsoft describes how to activate and use it:

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;306560

On re-reading the OP, I see that you’re using a laptop, so I’m not sure whether pressing “Right ALT” would be viable for you.

Record a macro for each special character and assign it to a keyboard shortcut.

Example (in Word 2000):

  • Tools > Macro > Record New Macro
  • Name the macro, store it in Normal.dot, give a description if you wish (“Types the æ character”) THEN click “Assign macro to Keyboard”
  • Type the shortcut key combo you want to use. (Any combo of Alt, Ctrl, Ctrl-Alt, Alt-Shift, or Ctrl-Shift plus a keyboard character and your F keys.) Make sure you don’t override an existing combo you’ll want to use later. (For example, be careful of Alt combos that wipe out your menu bar shortcuts, if you use them.) I’ll use the example of Alt+T, which I use for temporary macros. Click Assign, then Close.
  • Record your macro by typing what’s required to create the character. For æ, that would be fn+numlock, alt+0230, fn+numlock. Click the Stop button.

Voilà! Now when you type Alt+T, you get æ. Repeat for all the other special characters you plan to use. Make a list of them if you wish.

Sorry, I was in a rush and didn’t notice your comment about not using Word. Can you do macros in Roughdraft?

Another option: Wikipedia says that Roughdraft can do find and replace, so use a dummy character combo (say, &ae&) as you type, and do a global find and replace when you’re done. That way you ony have to type the painful stuff once.

Or use a macro utility that works in any application, such as AutoHotKey.

I have never seen a laptop without a numpad. I’m sitting in front of one actually and I can type in code 0211 by pressing Alt-Fn-MKJJ which is “Ó”. Does your laptop not have a numpad in the middle of the letter board?

Sorry I completely misread the OP, but still

Alt-Fn-MKJJ is a lot easier than Fn-Numlock, Alt-MKJJ, Fn-Numlock, so try that instead.

What are you using to write in? AllChars works brilliantly for WordPerfect (and the SMDB: æ á ¶ š), though it’s not so great for Macs.

Argh. S D M B, not the sado-masochistic database.

And it works by typing ctrl-a-e or ctrl-e-a, in order rather than simultaneously. Very easy. Æ æ.

I second the US-International keyboard layout. It doesn’t take that much time to learn and it opens up so many new characters with very little effort. I regularly type in both English and French and this layout is perfect for both. The biggest catch in English is when you’re typing anything that needs quotes or an apostrophe, you just need to learn to add a space after that character - for example, “echo” is “- space-e-c-h-o-”-space, otherwise you get ëcho". Doesn’t take a long time to learn, IMHO.

It might not help the OP, but on a Mac æ is just option-apostrophe, and Æ is shift-option-apostrophe. é is just option-e then e again. á is option-e then a. î is option-i then i again. â is option-i, followed by a. etc, etc…

Wow! I would have bet money that I would end up being completely out of luck, and there are some great options here. I’m looking forward to being able to try 'em out at home. I was actually dreading (a little bit) typing this November, because I don’t like the hassle of the special characters I love. You guys have totally made my day. Thanks!

Great options! Heck, I didn’t even imagine that using Alt-Fn-MKJJ could be possible, to give me one operation instead of three.

Does the computer then close the space automatically?

No space is actually inserted, just the quotation mark. If you like, consider the space to be underneath the mark, similar to how it works with other letters:

"e -> ë
"a -> ä
"<space> -> "

I finally got around to downloading Allchars, and it looks like it’s going to be pretty sweet. Plus, the fn+alt+<code> thing works, too.

Thanks everybody!