It’s easy to make accented characters (e.g. é and ü) in Linux. Easier than in Windows, actually, because in Windows you have to remember all those crazy Alt codes, and in Linux, it’s logical combinations of accents and letters.

  1. You need a command-line program called xmodmap. If you’re not sure you have this, run the following command in a term/console: which xmodmap. You’ll probably get something like the following:

     sarah@imp:~$ which xmodmap

    This shows that you have xmodmap installed, and it happens to be located at /usr/bin/X11/xmodmap. Peachy.

  2. Run the following command in a term:

     xmodmap -e "keysym Alt_R = Multi_key"

    This assigns your right Alt to be your “multi-key.” Your multi-key is the key you’ll press to tell the computer you’re about to make an accented character.

  3. Now you’re all set! The basic idea is to hit a key sequence, beginning with your multi-key, and then two characters you wish to combine. For example, to make an é, you would hit Alt ' e. That’s right-Alt, release, apostrophe, release, e. Or, you can hold down all the keys at once (i.e. right-Alt + apostrophe + e). You can also produce é if you hit the e before the apostrophe, as long as you begin the sequence with your multi-key.

    Note that your term might not recognize the accented characters, and so you should probably do your testing in some place like a browser or text editor.

Now you can type your French papers much more quickly, because you won’t have to select individual characters from some symbol chart in your word processor, and you can correspond with your German friends on gaim just as quickly, because you won’t have to copy and paste accented characters from some site.

A note: if you like writing your documents in OpenOffice, you may have some trouble with entering accented characters because OpenOffice always seemed to ignore the Alt key sequences, at least for me with version 1.1.0. I recommend instead, if you’re going to be writing something that involves non-English characters, a word processor called AbiWord. It’s simpler than OpenOffice and it lets you type in the accented characters.