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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

5 Answers 5

up vote 39 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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8  
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
1  
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
    
@tyjkenn Actually <kbd>Caps Lock</kbd> can be useful on other keyboard layouts. For instance, in the French layout, <kbd>2</kbd> shares its position with "é". <kbd>Caps Lock</kbd> will print "É" instead of "é" on Linux (on Windows, you get "2"). –  rds Sep 19 '13 at 20:06

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

Example:

CTRL+SHIFT+u 0 3 b b ENTER

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, unicode.org/charts/index.html is the place to go. –  taneli Jul 25 '12 at 20:02
1  
Seriously, only people on Windows do that. –  rds Sep 19 '13 at 20:01

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

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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Here is an answer close to 1st answer, with a little alternative.
I'm French using an US keyboard. So I often need to type é, è or à.

So like in 1st answer of this page, I use combo:
" then e for ë
' then e for é
` then e for è
` then a for à
~ then n for ñ (more for Spanish people)
....

These combo are always available in my configuration because I set my keyboard to English US international instead of English US or English UK.
With such keyboard setting, no need to type any compose key before the combo.

and these combo
" then spaceBar for "
' then spaceBar for '
` then spaceBar for `
~ then spaceBar for ~
Alt Gr plus 5 for

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