I've recently switched from Windows to Ubuntu 11.04, and a difference that bugs me a bit is, when a dead key (such as ^ or ´) is pressed twice, the behavior differs in the two OS'es.

On Windows, the first press is dead, but the second press gives you two characters. So, for instance, pressing ¨ once nets you nothing, but twice nets you ¨¨.

On Ubuntu, the first press is also dead, but the second press only nets you one character. So, pressing ¨ once nets you nothing, twice nets you ¨.

What I'd like to do is make dead keys function as on Windows, that is, pressing them twice nets you the character two times.

I do not wish to make them non-dead, as I then wouldn't be able to write for ü, for instance.

Is such a thing possible, and if so, how?

  • 2
    Just out of curiosity, I remember this behavior from my Windows days and it always boggled me what the use case could be for wanting two of them, any insight? I don't think there was a single time where I didn't use the backspace after hitting a dead key twice. – Ward Muylaert Jun 20 '11 at 10:04
  • For instance, when writing LaTeX, quoted text is written like ``this''. There's also the smiley ^^. – Sebastian Paaske Tørholm Jun 20 '11 at 11:07
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    I see, Kile autocorrects my " into `` or '' depending on what's needed. – Ward Muylaert Jun 20 '11 at 11:51
  • I just defined my own qq{} and q{} function for quotes. If you use a specific editor, you might be able to program that one ` will output `` or so – Martin Ueding Aug 13 '11 at 22:23

You can get similar behavior with the compose key. The compose key can be set under System Settings -> Keyboard -> Layout -> Options -> Compose Key. Now, to type ü, press compose, release compose and then proceed as you would in Windows.

Edit: Misread slightly, you'd need to make the keys dead before doing this, which for me, they were by default.


What you're asking isn't possible as far as I know; however if you would change your keyboard-layout to one with AltGr deadkeys, you'll still be able to have your deadkeys like ü.

How to get those deadkeys is very easy; e.g. ü would be AltGr + Shift + '.

If you don't have a dedicated AltGr key, then the right Alt key would be that key.


What I'd like to do is make dead keys function as on Windows, that is, pressing them twice nets you the character two times.

I do not wish to make them non-dead, as I then wouldn't be able to write for ü, for instance.

I wanted the same thing and failed to find an easy way to have ubuntu behave exactly like windows (dead key, but type it twice when typed twice). The solution that I am now using for myself uses dead keys, but still allows me to type special characters that are not on my keyboard, like à.

What I need to do to write such a character is to first press the "compose key".

There are multiple ways to set a compose key, including a nice gui with gnome-tweak-tool as proposed here. But using Capslock or Right Alt really messed with my flow.

So I propose this: Set a combination as your control key. I set it to AltGrSuper and now anything I type immediately after I release these two keys will be combined into one character.

This is done as follows:

  1. Set your keyboard layout to not use dead keys
  2. Find the available options with grep "compose:" /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/base.lst
  3. Set your preferred option using something like this command
    dconf write /org/gnome/desktop/input-sources/xkb-options "['compose:lwin-altgr']"
  1. You might have to log out and back in again
  • I am facing a very similar issue, only difference is that I did need to type the ` (dead_grave) only once. I don't want it to work for typing composed characters (I need it for develop code). right now I have to type twice to get a single quote. any advice? – cesarpachon Apr 8 '20 at 18:05
  • @cesarpachon have you tried all the keyboard layouts that are normally available? E.g. for swiss german, there are like 4 options. I might misunderstand you, but perhaps all you need is a keyboard layout that says "no dead keys" – lucidbrot Apr 8 '20 at 18:45
  • I don't want to change the full layout, just customize a single key. I have a spanish keyboard and the dead_grave key needs to be activated with alt gr. in US keyboards it is a direct keystroke. all other keys are ok. I was able to change that behavior with xmodmap but I need yet to press twice to insert the character. I would like to press it only once for writing code. like: instead of à I want just: hello (javascript feature for interpolated strings). Thanks for your suggestion I will search for alternative layouts (I would like to preserve dead_acute for spanish: Canción) – cesarpachon Apr 9 '20 at 17:15
  • Hmm, okay. I would advise you to ask a new question then, @cesarpachon. I don't know how, but I'm sure that should be doable with some keybinding mapping – lucidbrot Apr 9 '20 at 17:17

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