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I had a Compose Key set to right Super (a.k.a. Windows) key using Gnome keybindings. After upgrading, I seem to have lost the Compose Key function. Where can I enable Compose Key? I can't find any option under System Settings > Keyboard.

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8 Answers 8

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In Ubuntu 21.10 and later, a compose key option has returned to System Settings. In Settings navigate to the Keyboard section in the left column, then, under the Special Characters section, select Compose Key. Turn off the Default Layout, and select which key you would like to use.

In addition, the method just below (i.e., the 18.04 through 21.04 way) still works, save that the gnome-tweak-tool package is now called gnome-tweaks (because why not). So use this command instead to install it:

sudo apt install gnome-tweaks

In Ubuntu 18.04 through Ubuntu 21.04, since Ubuntu has now adopted the GNOME Desktop, things are more complicated: there is no longer any way to set the compose key within the regular system settings.

You must first download an entirely separate program, GNOME Tweaks. This can be found in Ubuntu Software or can be downloaded with this command via a terminal:

sudo apt install gnome-tweak-tool

Once Tweaks is installed, run it. Then hit Keyboard & Mouse on the left. In the Keyboard section on the right, an option to enable the compose key can be found. By default it is not enabled, so you will need to click on the word Disabled (confusingly, the word does not look clickable, but it is), which will open another window. Toggle the switch in the top left of that new window's title bar to enable setting the key.

Compose Key window in Ubuntu 20.04

Note that there are still limited options for what key can be set: Scroll Lock, Right Alt, Caps Lock, PrtScn, Right Ctrl, Left Alt, Menu, and Right Super. If you wish to set it to a key not listed, the solution in this answer still works.


In Ubuntu 14.04 and 16.04 go to Keyboard within System Settings. Select the Shortcuts tab, then Typing from the list on the left. Clicking to the right of the Compose Key setting will bring up a menu of different options.

Note that the only options are Right Alt, Right Ctrl, Right Win, Left Alt, Menu, and Caps Lock. If you wish to set it to a key not listed, see this answer.


In Ubuntu 12.04 and earlier, go to Keyboard Layout in System Settings, then hit the Options button on the lower right. You will see one option called Compose key position, where you can set it to Right Win (i.e. right Super).

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  • 5
    The Ubuntu 18.04 solution still applies, as of Ubuntu 19.04.
    – tanius
    Apr 11, 2019 at 12:56
  • @Aibara On my 18.04.3 system, gnome tweaks keeps the compose key setting disabled.
    – Jonathan
    Aug 24, 2019 at 15:09
  • 1
    @Jonathan Check my solution below to get it to actually enable the setting. Nov 19, 2019 at 20:28
  • This does not work for me on Ubuntu 20.04. Can anybody help here? Apr 25, 2020 at 10:07
  • 1
    As of Sept 2021, gnome-tweak-tool and gnome-tweaks no longer seem to exist. I had to edit gsettings directly as per askubuntu.com/a/1337274/580023 .
    – Boxbot
    Sep 25, 2021 at 10:40
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In Ubuntu 13.10

In Keyboard settings window, under Shortcuts -> Typing set Compose key to Right Alt (or other). snap1

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On Ubuntu 19.10, and likely anything using gnome-tweaks (the current name for gnome-tweak-tool), the UI for enabling the compose key is a little confusing. First, under Keyboard & Mouse, click the "Disabled" button:

disabled button

Then this is where the UI is tricky (and utterly indefensible IMHO). Click the switch widget in the top left of the new window:

switch widget

Once you do that, it'll let you actually change the setting.

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    OMFG. Seriously. That UI. I cannot believe it. I had to come here to figure out why the heck the options were all disabled. Jun 17, 2020 at 1:27
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In Ubuntu MATE 18.04 go to Control CenterKeyboardLayoutsOptionsPosition of Compose key and select your choice for the key.

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In Ubuntu 12.04 LTS:

  1. Select System Settings... from system menu; snap1

  2. Select Keyboard; snap2

  3. Under the tab labelled Typing click Layout Settings; snap3

  4. In keyboard layout window, click Options... button; snap4

  5. Finally in the Keyboard Layout Options window select Key(s) to change layout and mark the binding of your choice. (I use Shift + CapsLock to toggle the layout.) snap5


Useful link:

Summary:

Using compose key:

  • For ë you press Compose followed by " then e keys.

    (..here you'd have to remember the two character combination)

Using hexadecimal Unicode character code point:

  • Press (and release) Shift+Ctrl+U, then, while underlined u is displayed, enter the hexadecimal Unicode character code point followed by Return or Space.

    e.g. Ctrl+Shift+u followed by 2 6 3 b and then Return or Space for ☻ .

    (..so this one would require you to remember the Unicode number)

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In ubuntu 18.04 you can try gnome-tweak-tools, but
a) it did not work for me
b) the options are restricted to fewer keys than possible

If you'd like to use e.g. a combination of super and AltGr, you could not do that in the tweak tools. But you can do as this answer suggests and modify a dconf setting:

dconf write /org/gnome/desktop/input-sources/xkb-options "['compose:lwin-altgr']"

For a list of possible options:

grep "compose:" /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/base.lst 
  compose:ralt         Right Alt
  compose:lwin         Left Win
  compose:lwin-altgr   3rd level of Left Win
  compose:rwin         Right Win
  compose:rwin-altgr   3rd level of Right Win
  compose:menu         Menu
  compose:menu-altgr   3rd level of Menu
  compose:lctrl        Left Ctrl
  compose:lctrl-altgr  3rd level of Left Ctrl
  compose:rctrl        Right Ctrl
  compose:rctrl-altgr  3rd level of Right Ctrl
  compose:caps         Caps Lock
  compose:caps-altgr   3rd level of Caps Lock
  compose:102          <Less/Greater>
  compose:102-altgr    3rd level of <Less/Greater>
  compose:paus         Pause
  compose:prsc         PrtSc
  compose:sclk         Scroll Lock
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In order to set up the Compose key you must go to (setting -> keyboard -> layout settings -> keyboard settings -> then go to the typing tab -> press and hold the Compose Key setting -> move you mouse down to select the key you want to assign Compose to. enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

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In Ubuntu 20.04.3 LTS

I had to edit gsettings directly via the terminal as per this answer:

Thanks to the previous answers, here is the method that worked for me:

List keyboard settings:

gsettings list-recursively org.gnome.desktop.input-sources

Set the compose key:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.input-sources xkb-options "['compose:ralt']"

List possible values for compose key (replace compose:ralt with your preferred option):

grep "compose:" /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/base.lst

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