I'm using Debian 9 x64 with the dwm window manager. I don't use Gnome, KDE, Xfce, or any other desktop environment; it's just the window manager.

I configured my keyboard layout to use the Generic 105-key international keyboard. I've tried AltGr (the right Alt key) plus various alt codes, to no avail. I've also tried AltGr and then " u or u ", with similarly disappointing results.

Ideally I would be able to type these characters anywhere, including text editors (all of mine support Unicode), web browsers, etc. I don't use LibreOffice, so some of the LibreOffice-specific solutions I find aren't enough.


You're missing a step. You need to set a Compose key first. For example, to set the right Alt key as the Compose key:

setxkbmap -layout us -option compose:ralt


  1. Press Compose (on my keyboard it's labelled Alt Gr) and release it.
  2. Press the sequence of keys that correspond to the letter/diacritic you want. These are sometimes intuitive, sometimes not. Sometimes the order doesn't matter, either, e.g. in the case of accents.
    • To insert ß, press s s
    • For umlauts, e.g. ü, press u "
    • For accents, e.g. á, press a ' or ' a
    • For ñ, press n Shift ~

You can see the full list on Wikipedia or in the image below:

compose key: common combinations


If it is for a few char, you can use :

Ctrl+Shift+U Enter 'utf8 code of your char' Enter

You can find the utf8 code here

  • 1
    This works in programs that support it, e.g. Firefox, but it doesn't work everywhere (in some terminals, for example, or the SciTe text editor without additional modification).
    – Michael A
    Mar 2 '19 at 17:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.