I've been experimenting with 14.04 (Xubuntu, XFCE, etc), and so far haven't been able to make sense of any of the messages saying how to enter characters marked by things like umlauts, accents, etc. Is there a beginner's guide for how to do this right?

One problem is that all the answers I've seen seem to say something like "Settings→ keyboard → ..." or "System→Preferences → ...", and with the window manager I see on the screen, I can't find anything that matches any of these. Is there a way to translate such instructions into XFCEese? I've also seen instructions to configure a Compose key, but my keyboard doesn't have a key with that text. I'm guessing that there's a way to map this to some actual physical key, but I haven't yet stumbled across instructions that work.

Also, some other systems (e.g. my Macbook Pro ;-) have a little on-screen keyboard that shows what chars I'll get if I press a key, and for control keys like shift, alt, etc, rewrites the little window to show what they do to the char codes. I'm guessing that Xubuntu has something like this hidden somewhere, but I can't guess what it's called, and haven't found it by poking around in things labelled "keyboard". Does it exist somewhere? Such tools are really handy for learning how to type the input you want on a system you're not familiar with.

(And why, when I enter "umlaut diaresis" in this site's search widget, does it tell me there's no match? Just "umlaut" by itself returns lots of stuff that's utterly irrelevant, but trying to narrow the search simply results in total failure. ;-)

  • It may be helpful to add whether you wish to write such characters occasionally, or whether you'd prefer to customize your keyboard layout. I mean: are you German, do you expect to use umlauts in your primary language? Or do you need to type such character just once in a while? – Rafał Cieślak Sep 4 '14 at 16:17
  • Also: you do not need a "Compose" key on your keyboard. By default, you can use Ctrl+Shift+U to compose a character. Press and hold Ctrl+Shift+U (an underlined 'u' should appear). Keep Ctrl held, but release Shift and U. Type in a hex unicode number for desired character (e.g. e4 for ä), then release Ctrl, and the character will appear. – Rafał Cieślak Sep 4 '14 at 16:21
  • Hmmm ... No other answers in a month or so. I guess my intended uses are in the "none of the above" category. ;-) I do a lot of work with "internationalization" in a lot of languages, including German, Finnish, Russian, Greek, Croatian, Hebrew, and Chinese. I'm trying to learn how to type in all these languages. E.g., I have sheet music with lyrics in all of the above and others, and I'd like to add the lyrics in to my copies of the tunes, but I don't know how to type even something as simple and common as an umlaut or an accent (or a hachek ;-). – user332098 Oct 11 '14 at 16:16
  • So my guess is that you might be happy with installing multiple keyboard layouts, switching between them using the indicator (or with keyboard shortcuts), and occasionally displaying character map for given keyboard layout (if you need to learn how to type a particular rare latter like щ). Does this sound good? – Rafał Cieślak Oct 11 '14 at 18:02
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    I’m in the same boat. I usually type in English, but occasionally want to type a Swedish word with an accented character (e.g. Skåne, Öland). As the OP says, in my usual OS X environment it’s trivial to type most European combinatory accents (e.g. alt-a is å, alt-u followed by a for ä). I’d rather not switch keyboard layouts entirely (and have to learn a bunch of new key mappings) or memorise four digit character codes; I just want a quick access to accented characters. – Robin Whittleton Feb 19 '15 at 14:54

Why not try US international layout with dead keys?

Go to Settings>Keyboard, select Layout tab. Uncheck 'Use system default settings' then below under 'Keyboard setting add English (USA) | English (international with dead keys AltGr). [Translating into English from my localisation so the terms might be off a bit.]

Choose key combo for switching layout and you are free to go. 'ü' is created by 'AltGr + y' combination, 'ä' is under 'AltGr + q', 'ö' is under 'AltGr + p'.

As for searching for characters I suggest going with Character map. One thing to note - there are two diaeresis: one is a spacing character U+00A8 and the second is combining diaeresis U+0308 - this is the one you want.

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    Your suggestions using AltGr + y for ü, AltGr + q for an ä etc. Seems a bit hacky and hard to remember for me ^^ – derHugo Nov 7 '17 at 11:01
  • +1; @user332098, The method described in this answer combined with the on-screen keyboard onboard will make it easy to find the AltGrkey combinations :-) – sudodus Nov 8 '17 at 6:44

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