Often times, I use unicode symbols (emoji, blocks, arrows, math...) in my typing, but it's very annoying to search-copy-paste them from the interweb, and it's also quite tedious to customize the Compose key (ensure clash are not used, find a mnemonic, edit config, restart).

So, I'm looking for a way to quicky insert unicode symbols by searching while typing. Is there a way to do that?

For example, say that I want to write ๐›ผ = ๐›ผ + 1. I would like to press a magic key (like Compose), write "alfa" or "alpha" down and get the suggestion for ๐›ผ and ๐›ข (capital ๐›ผ), and maybe even other symbols related by relevance. This means that, in any application I am using, some kind of popup window should appear and help me search the right symbol.

I recall of having seen something similar in the past for people writing in japanese or chinese, but I don't know what could work for unicode.

What could I use to quickly search unicode entry points and insert them in the text I'm writing?


The general answer is of course an input method. Many (albeit not all) input methods are controlled by CIN data files, a common data format that also works with MacOS, and one can fairly easily come up with a CIN file that converts "alpha" into upper/lower-case α should one want to. The file format is not complex.

Most input methods come pre-supplied with a set of CIN files, and there is already a greek.cin available, which tackles Greek slightly differently. "A" converts to Α and "a" converts to α. If you look at the various collections of CIN files, you'll find that between them they cover quite a lot. Some examples of things other than CJKV:

  • latin-letters.cin covers the English/Latin alphabet with added diacritics, and things like "ETH" and "thorn" for Ð and þ.
  • esperanto.cim makes typing Esperanto somewhat easier.
  • egyptian.cin provides Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Most such input methods allow more than one CIN file to be used, switching among them at runtime.

Further reading

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    Thanks, I am no expert in input methods and I didn't really know where to start. This is a big help! I read that ibus is probably the most used IM: should I go for that? Does it support CIN files? – ARDVL May 2 at 13:03

A couple of solutions using gedit, at leat version 3.30

  • You can insert emojis by pressing Ctrl+.

    enter image description here

  • To insert uncode characters you can press Ctrl+Shift+u. An underline u will appear, and then you can type the code of the symbol you are looking and press Enter. Here the official unicode character maps.

    enter image description here

    enter image description here

  • For greek symbols, open the side pane, "Main menu โ†’ View โ†’ Side pane", and select "Character maps". Select "greek" and you will be presented with greek symbols.

    enter image description here

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  • Hello, thanks I didn't know about these features of gedit, but sadly I need something more general and I knew already about unicode input with Ctrl+Shift+U, but it's very inefficient. – ARDVL Apr 26 at 21:53

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