I frequently use the compose key to type special characters. I now have a fresh install of Ubuntu 14.04, and in the keyboard settings it says "compose key: disabled". I can't find how to set the compose key.

5 Answers 5


In keyboard settings -> Shortcuts -> Typing -> Compose Key

Click the 'Disabled' across from Compose Key and select the key you want.

  • 1
    Not sure why it took someone so long to post the easiest solution. Absolutely no need to use dconf-editor to setup hotkeys. +1 Jul 31, 2014 at 4:12
  • 1
    I think it took so long because when I asked this question, this didn't work. Or I wouldn't have asked the question. Now it does work on my computer, so the question is kind of obsolete. btw, how do I find out why my question gave me negative points?
    – Christine
    Jul 31, 2014 at 16:05
  • 1
    The downside of this is that not every key is available: right ctrl/alt/win, left ctrl, menu, or caps lock. I, for one, prefer the Scroll Lock key to be the compose key. Aug 25, 2014 at 17:13
  • 1
    @ElefantPhace This is definitely a nicer option, but at least the accepted answer has the benefit that it will probably work even after another interface change (which wouldn't surprise me since, after all, it's not really clear at all why the position of a key would be considered a shortcut. Sep 3, 2014 at 13:17
  • 1
    the key I want is not there among the options. what a stupid idea that I cannot choose any key. Mar 31, 2015 at 16:15

You will need to install dconf Editor from the Ubuntu Software Centre so it will appear in your applications.

If you use an applications list it appears under Sundry or if not in your Activities Overview (type dconf in the ~type to search~ box).

There are other ways of achieving your aim but this is a simple gui method not needing terminal skills.

$ dconf write /org/gnome/desktop/input-sources/xkb-options "['compose:{key}']"

where {key} is your chosen key-name (e.g. "['compose:ralt']" would make right alt your compose key.

  • 1
    u bent van harte welkom. veel succes
    – user265064
    Apr 25, 2014 at 9:06
  • 3
    You don't "need" to install dconf-editor just for this purpose. See the answer from @lovestha below.
    – chaskes
    Jul 31, 2014 at 4:04
  • 7
    For completeness of this answer (mentioned in other answer): xkboptions can be found at org > gnome > desktop > input-sources. Options for key can be found in the manpage for xkeyboard-config, which can be found by typing man xkeyboard-config in a terminal, or in this page: dsm.fordham.edu/cgi-bin/…. Search for "Compose key" (which can be done in the terminal manpage by pressing / and then typing your query, followed by enter). Aug 25, 2014 at 17:18
  • 2
    The answer from @LovesTha below is so much simpler. Oct 27, 2014 at 1:28
  • 2
    @DavidDossot simpler if and only if you want to choose your compose key from that 6 given. because FU, thats why. Mar 31, 2015 at 16:33

From Ubuntu 14.04

Sundry → dconf → org → gnome → desktop → input-sources → xkboptions

e.g. to set the Alt Gr key as compose:

  • I'm sorry, I need more help. The only "Sundry" I can find is a file named X-GNOME-Sundry.directory but it doesn't contain a directory name.
    – Christine
    Apr 23, 2014 at 15:58

When you start the dconf editor, select the down pointing triangles in this order: org, desktop, input-sources all within the left pane. Each of these expands a menu where you can select the next option. After you pick input-sources, you will see the xkboptions in the right panel, select that and you can enter your choice as outlined above.


Just click on the "disabled" and choose any of the available keys in the appeared drop-down list. Than you can hit the key and type key combinations. For example

<Key> o / gives ø symbol. 
<Key> . . gives … symbol
<Key> a ' gives à

and so one

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.