I want to type guillemets (angle quotes, «») in Ubuntu when using

  1. Russian keyboard mapping
  2. English keyboard mapping

Is it possible (preferably without typing numeric codes)?

There is a discussion here, but it does not mention Linux.

  • Where do you want to enter "guillemets"? In LibreOffice Writer or in TeX?
    – N0rbert
    Aug 2, 2018 at 8:53
  • @N0rbert Generally in every application, if possible. I usually use LibreOffice Writer and Sublime Text.
    – rapt
    Aug 2, 2018 at 9:03
  • @rapt LibreOffice convert automatically the " symbol into guillemet, so that's not a problem on this program; but for Sublime Text, I don't know
    – damadam
    Aug 2, 2018 at 9:11
  • @damadam Is there a setting for that in Writer? When I try, it uses smart quotes e.g. “hello”.
    – rapt
    Aug 2, 2018 at 9:16
  • @rapt What is your desktop environment?
    – N0rbert
    Aug 2, 2018 at 9:16

3 Answers 3


Below is list of methods to enable special typographic symbols.
For Russian en English layouts they are defined in /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/typo file (mainly based on the layout proposed by Ilya Birman).

As the result you will get the following symbols:

First keyboard row:

  • ~ NoSymbol , Shift+~ approxeq ;
  • 1 onesuperior ¹, Shift+1 exclamdown ¡;
  • 2 twosuperior ², Shift+2 onehalf ½;
  • 3 threesuperior ³, Shift+3 onethird ;
  • 4 dollar* $, Shift+4 onequarter ¼;
  • 5 U2030 (PER MILLE SIGN) , Shift+5 NoSymbol;
  • 6 uparrow , Shift+6 NoSymbol;
  • 7 ampersand &, Shift+7 questiondown ¿;
  • 8 infinity , Shift+8 oneeighth ;
  • 9 leftarrow , Shift+9 NoSymbol;
  • 0 rightarrow , Shift+0 NoSymbol;
  • - emdash , Shift+- endash ;
  • = notequal , Shift+= plusminus ±;

Second keyboard row:

  • e EuroSign , Shift+e NoSymbol;
  • r registered ®, Shift+r NoSymbol;
  • t trademark , Shift+t NoSymbol;
  • y yen ¥, Shift+y NoSymbol;
  • p acute ´, Shift+p doubleacute ˝;
  • [ bracketleft [, Shift+[ braceleft {;
  • ] bracketright ], Shift+] braceright }.

Third keyboard row:

  • a U0301 (COMBINING ACUTE ACCENT) ́, Shift+a NoSymbol;
  • s section §, Shift+s NoSymbol;
  • d degree °, Shift+d division ÷;
  • f sterling £, Shift+f NoSymbol;
  • j doublelowquotemark , Shift+j singlelowquotemark ;
  • k leftdoublequotemark , Shift+k leftsinglequotemark ;
  • l rightdoublequotemark , Shift+l rightsinglequotemark ;
  • ; leftsinglequotemark , Shift+; minutes ;
  • ' rightsinglequotemark , Shift+' seconds .

Fourth keyboard row:

  • x multiply ×, Shift+x U22C5 (DOT OPERATOR) ;
  • c copyright ©, Shift+c cent ¢;
  • v downarrow , Shift+v U25CA (LOZENGE) ;
  • m U2212 (MINUS SIGN) , Shift+m enfilledcircbullet ;
  • , guillemotleft «, Shift+, less <;
  • . guillemotright », Shift+. greater >;
  • / ellipsis , Shift+/ NoSymbol;


  • Space nobreakspace , Shift+ Space nobreakspace .

For other languages layouts may vary.
Settings for common desktop environments are presented below.

Ubuntu with Unity and GNOME desktop environments

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and Ubuntu 16.04 LTS

  1. Launch GNOME Tweaks (installable with sudo apt-get install gnome-tweak-tool, run by gnome-tweak-tool)

    1. Go to Typing
    2. In Miscellaneous compatibility options check Enable extra typographic characters
    3. Close GNOME Tweaks.
  2. Open Keyboard preferences (or unity-control-center keyboard)

    1. Click on Text Entry, then on Keyboard Settings...
    2. Select key in Alternative Characters Key (for example, Right Alt) (note: it is 3rd level)
    3. Back to Text Entry section, select Russian keyboard layout and click small keyboard icon keyboard icon to ensure that we have guillemets («елочки»):

      Guillemets or Елочки in GNOME

    4. Close Keyboard windows.

  3. Use guillemets («елочки») in any application by pressing RightAlt with corresponding keys (Б and Ю; , and .).

Ubuntu 18.04 LTS

  1. Launch GNOME Tweaks (installable with sudo apt-get install gnome-tweaks, run by gnome-tweaks)
    1. Go to Keyboard & Mouse
    2. Click on Additional Layout Options
    3. Expand Miscellaneous compatibility options check Enable extra typographic characters
    4. Close GNOME Tweaks.
  2. Use guillemets («елочки») in any application by pressing RightAlt with corresponding keys (Б and Ю; , and .).

Ubuntu with MATE Desktop Environment (any version)

GUI way

  1. Open System -> Preferences -> Hardware -> Keyboard (or mate-keyboard-properties).
  2. Go to Layouts tab
    1. Click Options
    2. In Key to choose 3rd level choose needed key (for example Right Alt)
    3. In Miscellaneous compatibility options check Enable extra typographic characters
    4. Click Close
  3. Select Russian keyboard layout and click Show to ensure that we have guillemets («елочки»):

    Guillemets or Елочки in MATE

  4. Use guillemets («елочки») in any application by pressing RightAlt with corresponding keys (Б and Ю; , and .).

Terminal way

Use GSettings to set two layouts (us and ru) using Alt+Shift as layout switcher, typographic symbols are enabled RightAlt as 3rd level switch::

gsettings set org.mate.peripherals-keyboard-xkb.kbd layouts "['us', 'ru']"
gsettings set org.mate.peripherals-keyboard-xkb.kbd model "''"
gsettings set org.mate.peripherals-keyboard-xkb.kbd options \
"['grp\tgrp:alt_shift_toggle', 'lv3\tlv3:ralt_switch', 'compat\tmisc:typo']"

Other GUI sessions and terminal

Edit /etc/default/keyboard and add here two parameters as described in man xkeyboard-config:

  • misc:typo to enable extra typographic characters and
  • lv3:ralt_switch to choose typographic symbols with Right Alt:


After editing you should update initramfs images to include the new version of configuration file

sudo update-initramfs -k all -u
  • I use the Unity desktop. I tried your "Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and Ubuntu 16.04 LTS" way and nothing happens. When I am in Russian keyboard and do AltRight+<, it prints б.
    – rapt
    Aug 5, 2018 at 20:26
  • Very strange. Just tested this method again on clean Ubuntu 16.04 LTS VM with Unity desktop (followed my guide above line-by-line). With "RightAlt" + "ю" or "RightAlt" + "." it prints ». Do you see 3rd level on the image of keyboard layout chart (accessible from keyboard indicator in right top corner of the screen)?
    – N0rbert
    Aug 5, 2018 at 20:48
  • 1
    Thank you, it works, I use it. I think they could have done it better by allowing to override the 3rd level by the regular shortcuts such as the ones I have already defined. But generally it's useful to have access to the 3rd level of the keyboard.
    – rapt
    Aug 15, 2018 at 22:51
  • 1
    Holy Moly! All that work, clearly formatted, pictures added and still only 1 upvote? +1 Also, you can do keyboards the hard way
    – Fabby
    Aug 16, 2018 at 21:24
  • 1
    OMG finally the solution to all my problems (well, some of them)! guillemets and combining acute in the same layout
    – Guard
    Jun 13, 2021 at 12:34

On the English keyboard the simplest way I have found is this...
Tap Compose then >> (2x > in succession) which gives »
Tap Compose then << (2x < in succession) which gives «

  • does it work with others language keyboard mapping?
    – damadam
    Aug 2, 2018 at 8:24
  • Works on my English UK keyboard so US probably so but I don't have a Russian keyboard... Does the Russian keyboard have the > char? If so, I don't see a reason not to.
    – 24601
    Aug 2, 2018 at 8:38
  • @Graham I do not have that AltGr key in my physical Keyboard. Is there a way to work around this? Did they not take it into account? What do you mean by not having a Russian keyboard? You can add the Russian keyboard mapping, no?
    – rapt
    Aug 2, 2018 at 8:57
  • 1
    @N0rbert Please see my additional response to rapt. I confused the "Super" and "Compose" key terminology. I've amended my answer accordingly.
    – 24601
    Aug 8, 2018 at 12:39
  • 1
    Edited to show abbreviated method using only Compose key and right/left angle brackets
    – 24601
    Aug 9, 2018 at 8:47

Apparently having an AltGr (Alternate Graphics) key on your keyboard where the Right Alt resides on US style keyboards is helpful for « and » simulation key strokes.

From this French article, translated by google below, it says:

  • Under X11 (GNU / Linux) :

    • AltGr w (oss variant) or AltGr z (fr variant) and AltGr x give the left and right quotation marks "and"

Further discussion can be found in Wikipedia:

AltGr (also Alt Graph, or Right Alt1) is a modifier key found on some computer keyboards and is primarily used to type characters that are unusual for the locale of the keyboard layout, such as currency symbols and accented letters. On a typical, IBM-compatible PC keyboard, the AltGr key, when present, takes the place of the right-hand Alt key. In macOS, the Option key has functions similar to the AltGr key.

There is a lot more to read in the link!


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