Entering Special Characters in the X Window System

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In the X Window System (X11), special characters (accented characters, currency symbols, mathematical symbols, fractions, ligatures and other symbols) can be entered using a sequence a keys including a special key defined as the Multi_key.

The Multi_key may be assigned to a convenient key using xmodmap(1). Given that the windows key serves little purpose under a real operating system, it seemed like a good choice:

$ xmodmap -e "keycode 115 = Multi_key"

Or, more conveniently add the appropriate line to your configuration files:

$ cat ${HOME}/.Xmodmap                        
keycode 115 = Multi_key
$ xmodmap ${HOME}/.Xmodmap

A few examples are:

Sequence Name Character
Multi_key a ` Agrave à
Multi_key a ' Aacute á
Multi_key a " Adiaeresis ä
Multi_key a e ae æ
Multi_key o ~ Otilde õ
Multi_key s s ssharp (German eszett) ß
Multi_key R O registered ®
Multi_key c / cent ¢
Multi_key Y = yen ¥
Multi_key C = EuroSign
Multi_key x o currency ¤
Multi_key - , notsign ¬
Multi_key 3 4 threequarters ¾
Multi_key + - plusminus ±
Multi_key < < guillemotleft «
Multi_key > > guillemotright  »
Multi_key o o degree °
Multi_key 0 * degree °
Multi_key - : division ÷
Multi_key x x multiply ×
Multi_key u / mu µ
Multi_key ^ 1 onesuperior ¹
Multi_key ^ 2 twosuperior ²
Multi_key ^ 3 threesuperior ³
Multi_key ^ . periodcentered ·
Multi_key p ! paragraph
Multi_key ? ? questiondown ¿
Multi_key | | brokenbar ¦
Multi_key ! ^ brokenbar ¦
Multi_key . . ellipsis
Multi_key : . therefore
Multi_key < ' leftsinglequotemark
Multi_key > ' rightsinglequotemark
Multi_key < " leftdoublequotemark
Multi_key > " rightdoublequotemark

A list of many of the possible special characters that can be entered can be found in files named something like:

  • /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/locale/iso8859-1/Compose
  • /usr/X11R7/lib/X11/locale/iso8859-1/Compose
  • /usr/share/X11/locale/iso8859-1/Compose
  • /usr/share/X11/locale/en_US.UTF-8/Compose

See Also


Misinformation found herein copyright Paul Ripke (aka “stix”) stixpjr@gmail.com.