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Currently I use the character palette applet in gnome panel to put special characters into text.

This is okay, but I have to stop typing, select the character I want from the applet and then copy and paste.

Is there a way to simply type special characters with different key combinations? If so, how do I do it?

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Run gucharmap. Applications -> Accessories -> Character map. – Anonymous Nov 10 '11 at 21:54
Do for the compose key in right alt gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.input-sources xkb-options "['compose:ralt']". Source – Masi Jun 7 at 16:42
up vote 60 down vote accepted

Often this is easier with the compose key. With that configured you use key combos to get the special characters. For instance:

  • For ë you press Compose+", e.
  • For you press Compose+~, e.
  • For ô you press Compose+^, o.
  • For á you press Compose+', a.
  • For à you press Compose+`, a.
  • For you press Compose+=, e.
  • For £ you press Compose+-, l.

Note that you do not have to hold down the compose key; just press each key in order.

To set the compose key go to System -> Preferences -> Keyboard, then Layouts -> Options. Open up Compose Key Position and choose a key. I use Right-Alt.

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Spot on, except for one thing - you don't need to hold down the compose key at all. Just hit the compose key, `, then a, and voilà! – Jeremy Kerr Jul 29 '10 at 13:16
Yep. You're right. Habit made me think that it was actually required. – Dave Jennings Jul 29 '10 at 13:18
+1 for allowing me to get rid of the special characters panel applet – jfoucher Aug 1 '10 at 9:36
I recommend assigning the Compose key to Caps Lock, which I am pretty sure only comes standard on keyboards to annoy people. – tyjkenn Aug 16 '12 at 1:15
á <-- it worked! – Dave Jun 26 '15 at 4:09

If you know the unicode value of the character you'd like to type, hit CTRL+SHIFT+u and then type the unicode.



results in λ.

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I seriously didn't know this was possible. Many thanks. For anyone wondering where to find the unicode umm... codes, is the place to go. – taneli Jul 25 '12 at 20:02
Seriously, only people on Windows do that. – rds Sep 19 '13 at 20:01
do you know how to do this in wps office? – Marcel Oct 19 '15 at 21:29
@taneli also you can use other way. click the Keyboard Layout Icon on the top bar, then click the Character Map link in the dropdown menu. – Interesting Knox Mar 20 at 13:58

The easiest way I've found to do this is to set your keyboard layout to USA International (AltGr dead keys), then use Right-Alt+whatever to get the character you want. Obviously this does not work for all international/special characters, so if you need one that's not available through this method, use one of the other methods listed here.

Wikipedia gives us a handy diagram of the available characters and the keys they are mapped to.

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It's also relatively easy to edit a keyboard layout file and tailor it to one's needs: — – «» “” … – ΤΖΩΤΖΙΟΥ Sep 4 '10 at 0:32
Most local keyboard layouts (e.g. Belgian, French, etc.) also support AltGr, but the selection and location of special characters will be different. The exact layout can be seen on a similar diagram from inside the keyboard configuration. – JanC Jun 9 '11 at 13:23

Here is an answer close to 1st answer, with a little alternative: I do not need to use compose because I set my keyboard to English US international instead of English US or English UK.

So I use the following combo:
" then e for ë
' then e for é
` then e for è
` then a for à
~ then n for ñ

" then spaceBar for "
' then spaceBar for '
` then spaceBar for `
~ then spaceBar for ~
Alt Gr plus 5 for

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Is this still the case in Ubuntu 15.10? I don't get this working anymore. Setting either 'English (US, international, with dead keys)' or 'English (international, dead keys via AltGr)' doesn't work. – Lode Jan 28 at 21:10
I've found that setting the 'English (US, international, with dead keys)' actually works if set via lxkeymap (sudo apt-get install lxkeymap). Even more interesting, it only needs to be set once, as if some extra config is changed to make it work. (Dutch source: – Lode Jan 28 at 21:28
@Lode sorry I ve not install 15.10 yet. – Boris Mar 24 at 19:23

You can use Ctrl + U and type Unicode number of the sign you want to type. So for ē you have to type Ctrl + U + 113.

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Note for dummies like myself. It took me a while...

  1. Press Cont & Shift & u together
  2. Let go of all three keys
  3. input code (for example: 00e1 for á)
  4. Enter
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