Lost Symbol Command

Home Tutorials My MVP FAQs Useful Links


Where did my Symbol command go?

A frequent complaint from users of Word versions through Word 2003 is that the Symbol command has vanished from the Insert menu. This article will tell you how to quickly restore it and also explain how you lost it in the first place. (Note that this problem does not affect Word 2007 users because there is no longer an Insert menu in that version.)

How to restore it

  1. Open the Customize dialog. You can do this by selecting Customize from the Tools menu, by right-clicking on the Menu Bar or a toolbar and choosing Customize, or by double-clicking on an empty area of any toolbar. You can even, if you are a masochist, select Toolbars on the View menu and then choose Customize from the submenu. Customize also appears on the menu you get when you click on the arrow at the end of a toolbar in Word 2002 or 2003 and then click on the arrow beside the Add or Remove Buttons command.

  2. On the Commands tab of the Customize dialog, select the Insert category.

  3. Scroll down through the list of commands to find Symbol, as shown in Figure 1.

  4. Select the Symbol command with your mouse and drag it to the Menu Bar. Do not drop it there! Instead, hover over the Insert button until the Insert menu opens, and then drag and drop the Symbol button where you want it on the menu.

Figure 1. Customize dialog showing Symbol command

For a more detailed discussion of ways to restore missing menu commands, see this article.

How you lost it

  1. You wanted to insert an em dash. The built-in keyboard shortcut to insert an em dash is Alt+Ctrl+Num- (that is, you press the Alt and Ctrl keys simultaneously with the minus key on the numeric keypad).

  2. Instead, you pressed Alt+Ctrl+Hyphen, which is the shortcut for the ToolsCustomizeRemoveMenuShortcut command.

  3. You didn’t notice that the mouse pointer had changed to a big minus sign, but you didn’t get an em dash and thought nothing had happened.

  4. So you thought you’d just insert the em dash from the Symbol dialog and clicked on Symbol on the Insert menu (see Figure 2).

  5. What you didn’t realize is that the function of the ToolsCustomizeRemoveMenuShortcut command is to remove any menu item you click on. This is handy for removing unneeded files from the Work menu or deleted files from the MRU list at the bottom of the File menu (or any other unwanted menu item) but disastrous if you’re trying to actually use a menu command. As soon as you clicked on Symbol, it was gone!

Figure 2. Insert menu showing ToolsCustomizeRemoveMenuShortcut mouse pointer

If this ever happens to you again, be aware that you can dismiss the command with ESC. That is, pressing ESC restores your usual mouse pointer so that you can use the mouse normally. It is also helpful to know that the “terminator hyphen,” as it has been called, is exhausted after one use, and the mouse returns to its normal function automatically.

This article copyright © 2005, 2008 by Suzanne S. Barnhill.