Enter special characters

You can enter and view thousands of characters from most of the world's writing systems, even those not found on your keyboard. This page lists some different ways you can enter special characters.

Character map

GNOME comes with a character map application that allows you to browse all the characters in Unicode. Use the character map to find the character you want, and then copy and paste it to wherever you need it.

You can find Character Map in the Activities overview. For more information on the character map, see the Character Map Manual.


Another useful application shipped with GNOME is Characters. It lets you find and insert unusual characters by browsing character categories or searching for keywords.

You can launch Characters from the Activities overview. For more information on Characters, see the Characters Manual.

Compose key

A compose key is a special key that allows you to press multiple keys in a row to get a special character. For example, to type the accented letter é, you can press compose then ' then e.

Keyboards don't have specific compose keys. Instead, you can define one of the existing keys on your keyboard as a compose key.

Define a compose key

  1. Open the Activities overview and start typing Keyboard.

  2. Click on Keyboard to open the panel.

  3. Select the Shortcuts tab and click Typing.

  4. Click on Compose Key in the right pane.

  5. Click on Disabled and select the key you would like to behave as a compose key from the drop-down menu. You can choose either of the Ctrl keys, the right Alt key, the right Win or Super key if you have one, the Menu key or Caps Lock. Any key you select will then only work as a compose key, and will no longer work for its original purpose.

You can type many common characters using the compose key, for example:

  • Press compose then ' then a letter to place an acute accent over that letter, such as é.

  • Press compose then ` (back tick) then a letter to place a grave accent over that letter, such as è.

  • Press compose then " then a letter to place an umlaut over that letter, such as ë.

  • Press compose then - then a letter to place a macron over that letter, such as ē.

For more compose key sequences, see the compose key page on Wikipedia.

Code points

You can enter any Unicode character using only your keyboard with the numeric code point of the character. Every character is identified by a four-character code point. To find the code point for a character, find the character in the character map application and look in the status bar or the Character Details tab. The code point is the four characters after U+.

To enter a character by its code point, hold down Ctrl and Shift, type U followed by the four-character code point, then release Ctrl and Shift. If you often use characters that you can't easily access with other methods, you might find it useful to memorize the code point for those characters so you can enter them quickly.

Keyboard layouts

You can make your keyboard behave like the keyboard for another language, regardless of the letters printed on the keys. You can even easily switch between different keyboard layouts using an icon in the top bar. To learn how, see Use alternative keyboard layouts.

Input methods

An Input Method expands the previous methods by allowing to enter characters not only with keyboard but also any input devices. For instance you could enter characters with a mouse using a gesture method, or enter Japanese characters using a Latin keyboard.

To choose an input method, right-click over a text widget, and in the menu Input Method, choose an input method you want to use. There is no default input method provided, so refer to the input methods documentation to see how to use them.