Author Topic: How to type ä, ì, and accents on Linux or other Unix-based operating systems  (Read 1978 times)

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Offline Muzer

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I thought before I really started trying to learn Na'vi that I'd post some helpful advice for anyone running on Linux or other Unix-bases systems. If this is in the wrong place please move it; I'm not 100% sure what sort of thing goes where yet in this particular forum.

Set up the compose key.

The compose key is the easiest and most compatible method of typing letters not available in your keyboard in Linux - the only thing it depends on is the X Window System, which virtually every Linux and other Unix distribution with a graphical interface uses (with the notable exceptions of Mac OS, Chrome OS and Android - where this method will not work). However, oddly enough it isn't very well-known. As such, distributions ship with it either unconfigured or configured to an odd combination.

Ubuntu (and its derivatives) ship with it mapped to Shift + Alt Gr (in that order). I assume there are some other distributions that have it mapped to this as well. To try it out in your distribution, open anything that allows you to enter text, press Shift + Alt Gr (in that order), RELEASE BOTH KEYS, press and release the apostrophe ('), and press and release e. If your compose key is configured to Shift + Alt Gr, the letter é should appear. If this worked and you are fine with using Shift + Alt Gr, skip to the next section. Otherwise, follow along to configure it to a key of your choice.

The method for configuring the compose key is different depending on whether you are using KDE or Gnome. Most distributions use Gnome nowadays; however, there are still plenty (including the one I use) that use KDE.

Re-mapping the compose key in KDE

Open the system settings dialogue (quite how you do this depends on distribution)

Open "Regional & Language" (NOT Keyboard & Mouse)

Select the "Keyboard Layout" tab on the left

If "Enable keyboard layouts" is unchecked, check it now and click Apply.

Select the "Advanced" tab along the top

Open "Compose key position" by selecting it. If it is already open, scroll down to it.

Select the key you wish to use as the compose key. "Menu" is the key to the left of right control. I personally use Left Win (and use Right Win as a meta key - if you need this, ensure you will still have both compose and meta keys).

Click Apply and close the dialogue.

Test the meta key as per above, but instead of Shift + Alt Gr, use the key you chose. You should not need to restart X for this to work - if it does not work, check in the rest of that window for any conflicting definitions of the key you chose.

Re-mapping the compose key in Gnome

I don't have a Gnome system myself, but the instructions for Ubuntu should work for most distros: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/ComposeKey (read the section labelled Ubuntu with Gnome desktop)

Re-mapping the compose key in other desktop environments

You will probably need to edit (or create) /etc/X11/xorg.conf - let me know if you need instructions.

Compose key sequences

Now for the easy bit. The compose key makes sense, unlike the horrible alt-numpad-codes on Windows. Basically, you press the compose key (or combination), press the symbol that looks most like the accent, then press the letter key. Simple!

For example:

ä looks a bit like a double-quote on top of an "a". So, press compose, then press your double-quote key (shift-2 or shift-' depending on layout), then press a.

ì looks a lot like a backtick (`) on top of an "i". So, press compose, then press your backtick key (`), then press i.

é looks a bit like an apostrophe on top of an e. So, press compose, apostrophe, e.

æ (if you need to type IPA pronunciations) looks like an a next to an e. So, press compose, a, e.

I'm sure you can guess most of the rest ;)

Good luck!
[21:42:56] <@Muzer> Apple products used to be good, if expensive
[21:42:59] <@Muzer> now they are just expensive

Offline Kemaweyan

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My way to write these symbols in Linux. Put the attached file into /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols (first extract from archive). And then for ì press Right Alt + I, for ä - Right Alt + A (Alt+Shift+I = Ì, Alt+Shift+A = Ä).
Nìrangal frapo tsirvun pivlltxe nìNa'vi :D

Offline Muzer

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My way to write these symbols in Linux. Put the attached file into /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols (first extract from archive). And then for ì press Right Alt + I, for ä - Right Alt + A (Alt+Shift+I = Ì, Alt+Shift+A = Ä).

That's a good idea - this will also work on most distributions. I never thought of creating a custom keymap TBH. I think I'll stick with the compose key though as I occasionally need to type in other languages and it's always handy having a common method for typing weird letters...
« Last Edit: April 11, 2010, 09:47:51 am by Muzer »
[21:42:56] <@Muzer> Apple products used to be good, if expensive
[21:42:59] <@Muzer> now they are just expensive

Offline Kemaweyan

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Also for other symbols:

Alt + E = ɛ
Alt + Shift + E = æ
Alt + N = ŋ
Alt + Y = ı
Alt + ] = ʔ

Everywhere Alt is RightAlt only.
Nìrangal frapo tsirvun pivlltxe nìNa'vi :D

Offline hawnuyuna'viyä

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My way to write these symbols in Linux. Put the attached file into /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols (first extract from archive). And then for ì press Right Alt + I, for ä - Right Alt + A (Alt+Shift+I = Ì, Alt+Shift+A = Ä).

I also do this, albeit with a modified dvorak layout, since this is much easier than using the compose key (and leaves that free for other things).

You might want to just put an note that your attached layout is only useful if you are setup to use the US layouts (so for me, since I use a UK layout) would not be of use.

Offline Muzer

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My way to write these symbols in Linux. Put the attached file into /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols (first extract from archive). And then for ì press Right Alt + I, for ä - Right Alt + A (Alt+Shift+I = Ì, Alt+Shift+A = Ä).

I also do this, albeit with a modified dvorak layout, since this is much easier than using the compose key (and leaves that free for other things).

I disagree - though this is likely just because I've learned to become pretty "fluent" with the compose key and so I'm faster with it than with Alt Gr sequences which jar with me. Also, I tend to use left control and left Alt all the time, and save my right little finger for right shift (I rarely use left shift - only usually if I'm typing with one hand because the other is on the mouse). So pressing left winkey is much more natural to me than pressing right Alt Gr.

Obviously this is all just my opinion - do whatever feels easiest for you.
[21:42:56] <@Muzer> Apple products used to be good, if expensive
[21:42:59] <@Muzer> now they are just expensive

Offline Kemaweyan

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You might want to just put an note that your attached layout is only useful if you are setup to use the US layouts (so for me, since I use a UK layout) would not be of use.

Thus can be changed any layout, and UK too :)
Nìrangal frapo tsirvun pivlltxe nìNa'vi :D

 

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