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Using Extended Character Set in Your Label Design – Labeling Software Reference Article

Summary

You may noticed that when you view articles on the Internet that some of the writing include special graphic such as €, £, ¥, Œ. © or ™. Have you ever wonder how the author get these characters on to the articles?  Perhaps they are graphic icons. It is very logical to assume that they are icons or pictures since you do not have these characters on you keyboard.  The solution is much simpler.

Information

Background

In English language there are 26 uppercase letters, 26 lowercase letters, 10 digits, 33 special characters (!@#$%^…).  They add up to 95.  Then there are 32 additional characters that are not visible such as delete, back-space, and tab.  All together they add up to 127.  In computer, things are represented in byte. Each byte contains 8 bit. With 8 bits, there are possible of 256 possible combinations (take our word for it). Since the English language only has 127 characters, there are room for additional 128 characters.  This is where the extra characters come from.

How do we know what characters or symbol are available?

A very good question. If you don’t know what is there, how would you know to use it.

Below is a table containing all possible 255 characters for font (which font depends on your browser settings).  You may notice that some of the boxes appear to be blank. They, in fact, contains non printable characters such as tab, space, backspace, etc.  Note the first row and first column.  Their roles will become important in the next section.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
000        
001      
002          
003   ! # $ % &
004 ( ) * + , . / 0 1
005 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 : ;
006 < = > ? @ A B C D E
007 F G H I J K L M N O
008 P Q R S T U V W X Y
009 Z [ \ ] ^ _ ` a b c
010 d e f g h i j k l m
011 n o p q r s t u v w
012 x y z { | } ~  
013 ƒ ˆ Š
014 Œ  Ž  
015 ˜ š œ  ž Ÿ
016 ¡ ¢ £ ¤ ¥ ¦ § ¨ ©
017 ª « ¬ ­ ® ¯ ° ± ² ³
018 ´ µ · ¸ ¹ º » ¼ ½
019 ¾ ¿ À Á Â Ã Ä Å Æ Ç
020 È É Ê Ë Ì Í Î Ï Ð Ñ
021 Ò Ó Ô Õ Ö × Ø Ù Ú Û
022 Ü Ý Þ ß à á â ã ä å
023 æ ç è é ê ë ì í î ï
024 ð ñ ò ó ô õ ö ÷ ø ù
025 ú û ü ý þ ÿ

Most of the time, these characters remain the same but they may look different across font families (Arial, Helvetica, Tahoma, etc.).  With that said, you may encounter some font families that have entirely different characters or symbol set.  These are the one you should explore to see what is available to you.  For example, this is the same table as above but in Greek font family.

  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
000            
001      
002          
003     ! # $ % &
004 ( ) * + , . / 0 1
005 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 : ;
006 < = > ? @ A B C D E
007 F G H I J K L M N O
008 P Q R S T U V W X Y
009 Z [ \ ] ^ _ ` a b c
010 d e f g h i j k l m
011 n o p q r s t u v w
012 x y z { | } ~  
013 ƒ ˆ Š
014 Œ  Ž  
015 ˜ š œ  ž Ÿ
016   ¡ ¢ £ ¤ ¥ ¦ § ¨ ©
017 ª « ¬ ­ ® ¯ ° ± ² ³
018 ´ µ · ¸ ¹ º » ¼ ½
019 ¾ ¿ À Á Â Ã Ä Å Æ Ç
020 È É Ê Ë Ì Í Î Ï Ð Ñ
021 Ò Ó Ô Õ Ö × Ø Ù Ú Û
022 Ü Ý Þ ß à á â ã ä å
023 æ ç è é ê ë ì í î ï
024 ð ñ ò ó ô õ ö ÷ ø ù
025 ú û ü ý þ ÿ        

Click on this link for a handy Excel spreadsheet tool create by Peter Korprapun to help you find the correct ASCII code.Example of Peter’s Excel spreadsheet

Now that I found what I am looking for, how can I use them in my document or label design?

Earlier in the article we mentioned ‘first column’ and ‘first row’.  They contain a 3-digit numbers and a 1 digit numbers. First column contain row number from 0-25 and the first row contains column number from 0-9. Like a coordinate system, we use row number and column number to identify a specific character. For example, in the tables above, number 0, is located in row 004 and column 8.  The number that you will need is 0048.

Here are the steps to enter a character or symbol in your document:

  1. Select the desired font
  2. Hold down the ALT key and press enter the 4-digit code.
  3. Release the ALT key

We found that it is best to use the numerical keypad to enter the 4-digit code.  Using the number keys on the first row on the keyboard does not always work.

Another, may be simpler, way is to use the attached excel sheet:

  1. Open the Excel sheet
  2. Highlight the gray area of the table
  3. Change it to the desired font
  4. Copy and paste the desire characters or symbol from Excel to your document

Note: Many of the specialized design software may, during the software installation process, install additional fonts on your computer. You may want to explore those fonts and they may contain symbols or graphics that more directly related to your tasks.

Why would I want to use this method when I already have a graphic file representing the same symbol?

The advantage of using fonts instead of graphic files are simplicity.

  • Unlike most graphic formats, fonts can be scale up or down while maintaining the print/display quality.
  • It reduces the size of the document.
  • For the most part, fonts are free

Note: Some may refer to fonts ad Unicode.  For the context of this article, they are interchangeable.  Unicode is, however, is much more that font. For a full explanation of Unicode, please click here 

Updated on May 9, 2018

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