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How To Do Exponents on a Computer

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As you must have noticed, there are no exponents on your computer keyboard. This can be a real problem, especially if you’re typing mathematical equations or numerical expressions on your computer. 

Quick Answer

You can get exponents on your computer by typing Ctrl + Shift + = to activate the superscript feature on any MS Office program. You can also copy the symbol from a webpage or your computer’s character map and paste it where needed. Alternatively, you can use the caret (^) symbol or double (**) asterisk to represent the exponent. 

This article explains four ways to type exponents on your computer. We also provided an alternative that involves using caret or double asterisks. This alternative serves the same purpose but isn’t as pleasing to the eye. 

Method #1: Using Shortcut Keys on Your Computer

You can combine special keys to get the exponent function on your computer. For Windows, the shortcut keys only apply to keyboards with numerical keypads. Also, the method only works for exponents from one to three. The command is Alt + 0185 for exponent one, Alt + 0178 for exponent two, and Alt + 0179 for exponent three.

Shortcut Keys for Exponent on Windows

  1. Open your Notepad.
  2. Click the place you would like to insert the exponent.
  3. Press and hold the Alt key.
  4. While holding, type the alt code (the four-digit number) for the exponent symbol you need using the numeric keypad.
  5. Release your hold on the Alt key.

Shortcut Keys for Exponent on Mac

  1. Put the insertion cursor where you would like to insert the exponent.
  2. Press Shift + Cmd + plus (+). The combination of the three keys would activate the exponent format. 
  3. To return the computer to normal mode, press Shift + Cmd + plus (+) again. 

Method #2: Using the Copy and Paste Method

To use the copy and paste method, follow these steps.

  1. Open a webpage.
  2. Type and search for the exponent using a search engine.
  3. Copy the symbol from the search result.
  4. Paste the exponent using the shortcut key (Ctrl + V). 

Method #3: Using the MS Office Suite

You may use any of the MS Office programs for this method. There are two options for this method, and the first one is more straightforward, but they are both equally effective.

Using Superscript Symbol on the Home Tab

  1. Open Microsoft Word.
  2. On the “Home” tab, go to the font type and size section.
  3. Below the font box, you’ll see a symbol representing superscript (x2); click on it. Alternatively, you can press Ctrl + Shift + = to enable the superscript feature.
  4. Type any number, and it will appear as a superscript.
  5. To return to the standard format, click on the superscript symbol again.

Using the Insert Tab

  1. Launch Microsoft Word.
  2. Click the area where you want to insert the symbol.
  3. Click the “Insert” tab at the top of the MS Office page.
  4. Tap the symbol icon at the right end of the “Insert” tab.
  5. Click “More Symbols” to open the dialog box.
  6. Click the drop-down icon for the subset box and select “Superscripts and Subscripts“.
  7. Choose the appropriate exponent you want and click “Insert“.

Method #4: Using the Character Map

This method is exclusively for Windows computers. The Character Map is an inbuilt app on your Windows computer containing several characters and symbols you won’t find on your keyboard. To type exponent using a character map, follow these steps.

  1. Click the Start button.
  2. Search for “Character Map“.
  3. Click to open the Character Map application.
  4. Click on the “Advanced View” check box towards the bottom of the app page. This would expand the dialog box to reveal more options.
  5. Type “superscript” in the search box and click “search“. It would display a list of exponents from 1 to 9.
  6. Select the exponent you need by double-clicking it or clicking the select button towards the bottom of the app page.
  7. Click “Copy” to copy the exponent.
  8. Go to where you want to use the exponent and paste it using the shortcut key (Ctrl + V).
Quick Tip

The simple text editors on your computer don’t have the exponent function. If you don’t want to use the methods above, some symbols can be used to represent the exponent.

Caret (^) – Place your insertion cursor where you want to use the exponent; press Ctrl + 6 to derive the caret symbol. Then, type the exponent symbol immediately after the caret.

Double Asterisk (**) – Place your insertion cursor where you want to use the exponent; press Ctrl + 8 twice to derive the two asterisks. Then, type the exponent symbol immediately after the second asterisk.


Although the exponent symbol was not designed on the keyboard, there are ways you can work around this problem. Choose any method explained in the article and follow the steps to derive your exponent symbol.

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