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In Ubuntu 14.04 at least, if you go to System Settings, Hardware, then choose
Keyboard, then the Shortcuts tab and the Typing section, you'll be able to
define a Compose Key or Key Sequence (I believe it isn't active in a default
installation). The way it's buried might suggest that it isn't commonly

This is then used to enter a lot of the common characters by using
combinations, such as '1/2' to get the half fraction, 'o"' to get an o with
an umlaut and so forth. There are a surprising (to me anyway) combinations
that are recognized, and most are relatively easy to remember as they are
sort of mnemonic.

I used to use the compose key in a past life, but find the sorts of
characters I need in my work are more easily handled in a different manner.
Since I also use foreign languages with different character sets, I also
tend to use utilities more specifically oriented towards doing that.

With a "smart" Unicode font, the font itself contains "code" that, if the
system knows you are typing in French for instance, will automatically
convert an e followed by an accent into an accented e, and as more and more
systems now support Unicode, the need for a large segment of the Compose Key
users no longer need that. But, for certain uses, it can still be quite


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