Character Groups

Quick Key allows you to group characters into personalized sets, and save them to disk.


Quick Key can't fit all 65,000 characters on your screen at the same time, so they are organized in to logical groups called "charsets". These are saved as .charset files, and are used and modified in the Character Grid.

By creating personalized character sets you will save yourself time and screen space. Smaller, more focused groups are easier to manage, and are faster to respond Although Quick Key can display charsets with more than a few hundred characters, it can become unresponsive for long periods of time.

Included Charsets

To load a character set, click File > Open on the Toolbar, and choose a charset. Quick Key includes about 220 charsets.


  • By Language
    Character sets by category
  • By Font
    Font-specific character sets
  • All
    All 65,000 chracters, split into 1024 chraracter groups
  • View Filters
    Can be used in conjunction with charsets to apply filters.
  • Text Styles
    Similar to View Filters, but these overlay formatting when opened instead.


  • Ascii
    The 256 characters that are almost universally supported
  • <Language>
    Language-optimized character groups. Contains only the freqently used characters for each language.

Making your own charsets

Although many charsets are included by default, you may wish to create your own. The recommended procedure for this is to start with a larger character set that already has most of the characters you need, and then delete the unnecessary ones. If you find yourself needing a character that is not in the provided sets, press Ctrl-Shift-U to add characters by decimal or hexadecimal code. Another feature found in the Tools menu of the Toolbar is the Edit Characters as Text dialog box, where the list of characters is placed into a normal text box for regular editing. Note, however, that text boxes display characters differently than the character grid does. Some characters (combining marks) are displayed over preceding characters, and some are only visible as squares.

Tips: To quickly create a charset from an existing one, choose New Copy of this Charset from the File menu. If you are in possession of a document that already contains the characters you need, use Import from File. Use this to drag and drop (right mouse button) text selections to the character grid.

Help Wanted

Help us out! You can make your donation to the Quick Key project in the form of a charset. The Unicode standard defines tens of thousands of characters, and we are a long way from organizing all those into really useful groups. Please email us the characters sets you have customized to help you with your job; we will upload them to this page for everyone to enjoy. With each new release these files will be included.

Filtering Character Categories

Filters may cause some headaches, but I think once you get used to them they will come in handy. Filters are categories of characters, defined by the Unicode standard, which can be used selectively to narrow the number of characters you see in the Character Grid. For example, by default, characters in the categories Format, Control, Private Use, Other Not Assigned, Other Number, and Surrogate are hidden. These characters are unlikely to be used by anybody but a software developer or systems administrator. Your filter selections will be saved with your character set, but you can turn this off in the File menu. Character set files can contain any combination of Font Settings, Filters, and Characters. When a character set is opened and it does not contain one of these categories of information, the font settings, filters, and even characters are used from the last character set, essentially merging the two. Filter settings are found in the Filters menu on the Toolbar Form.

Picking a Font

Most fonts only support a small subset of the available characters; for the rest they display a generic rectangle. Arial Unicode MS supports an amazing selection of the Unicode specification. It contains 51,180 glyphs, and is bundled with Microsoft Word. I recommend that you use this font as much as possible while working with Quick Key, so that you can view the largest number of characters. Keep in mind, however, which font the destination application is using, as this will determine the result.

All fonts are different

In Quick Key, all characters will be displayed using whatever font is currently selected in the Toolbar. You may notice that when a character is transferred to another application, the appearance or shape of the character changes. This is because Quick Key and the destination application are using different fonts to render the character. If both fonts are correctly designed, and use the Unicode standard, the only change should be the style of the character. If a completely different character appears, you are using a non-standard font in either Quick Key or the application. Always use a standardized font to ensure sure that the document will be readable in the future. If in doubt, change the font to Times New Roman and verify that the letters appear correctly. As Quick Key does not transfer font information along with characters, I recommend that you set the font to Arial Unicode MS and leave it there. This eliminates any confusion you may have when opening a charset and seeing rectangles.

The Toolbar

Here you can load a different character set, save one you have modified, or change how characters are displayed. Keywords and Filters are controlled here. To display the toolbar, right click the Character Grid title bar or the system tray icon, and choose Toolbar.

Character Grid

The character grid is what you will use when sending characters to other applications. Most functions can be accessed by right-clicking objects in this window. The title bar menu allows you to modify appearance, functionality, and open a recently used charset. You will also notice the two icons next to the close button. These enable the auto-hide and lock features respectively. The character grid displays all characters in the current charset that match the currently selected filters. To move characters around, click the Drag mouse button (left) on a character.

Although using right-click menus to deal with characters one-by-one is often sufficient, you may need to make mass deletions or modifications that require a more powerful method. To do this, open the Toolbar, the click Tools>Edit Characters as Text. Now you can perform modifications on selections of characters.

About Nathanael

Nathanael Jones is a software engineer, father, consultant, and computer linguist with unreasonably high expectations of inanimate objects. He refines .NET, ruby, and javascript libraries full-time at Imazen, but can often be found on stack overflow or participating in W3C community groups.


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