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The compose key (usually AltGr) is used to make it easier to insert alternate characters and symbols using easy to remember character sequences. Here is a useful list with the available characters and symbols.

This key is disabled by default in Ubuntu and can be enabled as shown here: How can I enable Compose key?

But why is this key disabled by default in the first place?

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  1. The compose key is the key you define for the purpuse and not necessarily AltGr (Right Alt).
  2. Many keyboard layouts use AltGr by default as a modifier to access 3rd and 4th level symbols included in the layout, and in those cases it's not suitable to define AltGr as a compose key.

I assume it's not enabled by default because there is no obvious key which would be suitable in all use cases. The key you define as a compose key stops working in its original way.

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