Typing Accented Characters on Fedora 20

Being an American, I have long tended to ignore accent marks on characters from other languages, assuming they are unimportant and mostly decorative. No need to be all fancy and type résumé when “resume” works.

That ended when I tried to show off my Spanish around New Year’s, wishing someone online a “feliz ano nuevo,” only to learn that I had wished them a “happy new anus”. It turns out that the accent mark is quite important in differentiating “ano” (Spanish for ‘anus’) from “año” (Spanish for “year”). Ever since, I’ve accepted that, while more difficult to type, it’s important to use the right characters.

I’m now taking Czech lessons at work, and wish to make sure that I don’t embarrass myself again. The Czech language has a lot of accented characters. But switching to the Czech keyboard layout is awfully confusing.

Thanks to Tomas for introducing me to the concept of the “Compose” key in Linux, allowing you to type , ‘, and a to get á. The ‘Compose’ key can be mapped to any modifier key. But it’s hard to find documentation.

To enable the Compose key on Fedora 20 (in GNOME): Open the Settings menu and select ‘Keyboard’. From the Shortcut tab, find ‘Typing’, and you can now choose a key to map the Compose Key to.

Fedora 20 Compose Key

I chose the right Alt key, because I don’t use it.

To use it: Press your Compose key and release it. (You don’t have to hold it down.) Press a key corresponding to the accent, then the letter it should go over. For example, ñ is Compose, “~”, then “n”.

Here is an exhaustive list of possible characters, but here is a quick list of some common modifiers:

  • ~ will do a tilde over the character, as in ñ.
  • (single quote, next to Enter) will do a right accent, as in á
  • ` (backtick, below escape) will do a left accent, as in è
  • c will do a caron (as it is apparently called?), as in ž
  • (double quote) will do an umlaut, as in ü
  • , (comma) will do a cédille, as in ç
  • <, 3 will form a heart (♥) — remember you need shift when typing the <

Remember, you don’t have to hold down the Compose key. Just tap it, then type the next character. I keep forgetting this and doing weird gymnastics trying to type.

There are many more characters you can type, like ə, Đ, ç, ø, plus some currency signs and numeric super/subscripts, but I’ll let you view the full list to find them.

Now, typing čeština is easy! Understanding it will still be a long battle for me, but I can type it!

7 thoughts on “Typing Accented Characters on Fedora 20

  1. Great post and very helpful. I use KDE 4.12 and it was a bit different to configure but your article helped me to connect the dots. I did a blog post on it and linked you in the article for Gnome configuration, and added a link to you in the articles referenced section.

    The ano and año reference in your post really got me laughing. When I was first learning Spanish I made a Feliz Ano Nuevo graphic and wished the entire internet a happy new anus. LOL Thankfully I don’t think a lot of people seen it , and those who did, didn’t say anything.

    Thanks for the informative and helpful post and your writing is phenomenal !

  2. Thanks!

    To do the same in Cinnamon:

    System Settings (Control Center) → Keyboard → Keyboard layouts → Options → Position of Compose key → Right Alt

    (And to get ‘→’ do + ‘-’, + ‘>’ :-)

  3. Total fail. ~n is what I get with “compose” followed by ~ followed by n. Same results with “compose”+~+n. Guess I’ll have to keep looking

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