I'm on a Mac keyboard and I would prefer to have special characters available similar or the same to how they are accessed in OS X/macOS. Here is a similar question for Windows. E.g., alt+e+e → é and alt+c → ç without any GNOME Compose key funkiness.

Is there any tool that provides this function? Or is this something that should be changed in some possibly outdated Mac keyboard layout settings? If the latter, how would I resolve conflicts with existing alt+letter shortcuts (both in identifying the conflict and working around them), e.g., would the alt+letter shortcut do both the shortcut and produce the special character? Are there any patent conflicts or intellectual property reasons to not duplicate this function?

  • Compose is not a Gnome feature, it's a general X11 feature. Outside the Mac world, this functionality is called AltGr. What keyboard layout are you using? Most layouts for languages based on the Latin alphabet include AltGr, with the notable exception of US and UK. Commented Nov 19, 2016 at 23:08
  • Wolf: "I'm on a Mac keyboard".
    – dan
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 15:54
  • 2
    Pretty good question: the Apple keyboard mapping under MacOS X permits to type most of the european languages with the standard US keyboard, with pretty easy to memorize combinations: alt+n..n → ñ, alt+o → ø, alt+a → å, alt+shift+a → Å, alt+s → ß, alt+u..u → ü, alt+y → ¥ and müch møre!
    – dan
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 16:04

2 Answers 2


As suggested here recent Linux supports windows like altgr+key feature for typing special characters. However, this is not available out of the box like in Windows.

However, it can be enabled by using US International Alternate keyboard instead of US International keyboard layout. As suggested here it is most likely because of character encoding and supported keys in the layouts.

  • Recent??? AltGr is older than Linux and has always been supported under Linux. Commented Nov 19, 2016 at 23:08

When dealing with a German macOS keyboard on a debian machine there is a common pitfall.

After running sudo dpkg-reconfigure keyboard-configuration, selecting "Macintosh" is wrong. Don't get fooled. Scroll down to "MacBook Pro", select that, then pick whether you want nodeadkeys or not.

Then, tell it to use both alt keys for AltGr, because AltGr maps to the option key on traditional macOS. Then you have a similar experience to macOS:

You then can type all special characters behind the option layer, but you won't have the traditional alt key, which might be concerning.

I would really prefer to also map cmd to the traditional alt, but I haven't found a way so far.

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