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<title>Linux Compose Key </title>
<p>
I often need to type characters that aren’t on the keyboard, like ½ ÷ © ¥ or ¢.
</p><p>
On <strong>Mac</strong>, they’re done with the [option] key, but not always intuitive. For example: © is [option]-G and £ is [option]-3. I never did memorize all of these combinations, but there’s a nice cheat sheet of <a href="http://tlt.its.psu.edu/suggestions/international/accents/codemac.html">Mac accent codes, here</a>.
</p><p>
On <strong>Windows</strong>, it’s horrible. You need a separate numeric keypad on your keyboard, then you use the [Alt] key plus a 4-digit unicode number to create the character. For example: © is [Alt]-0169 and £ is [Alt]-0163. See <a href="http://tlt.its.psu.edu/suggestions/international/accents/codealt.html">Windows alt codes, here</a>.
</p><p>
On <strong>Linux</strong>, though, they have the most brilliant intuitive way of doing this:
</p><p>
You pick a key on your keyboard you don’t use much, like [Insert], [CapsLock], or [menu], and make it the “<strong>compose key</strong>”.
</p><p>
Then to make any character, you just hit the compose key, then type the <strong>two obvious keys that, when combined, make up the character</strong>.
</p><p>
For example:
</p>
<ul>
<li>To get <strong>©</strong>, just type <strong>c</strong> then <strong>o</strong> (Get it? It’s like drawing. The letter c, then a circle.)</li>
<li>To get <strong>£</strong>, just type <strong>L</strong> then <strong>-</strong> (like L with a line through it.)</li>
<li>To get <strong>¥</strong>, just type <strong>Y</strong> then <strong>=</strong></li>
<li><strong>¢</strong> is <strong>c</strong> then <strong>|</strong></li>
<li><strong>÷</strong> is <strong>-</strong> then <strong>:</strong></li>
<li><strong>½</strong> is <strong>1</strong> then <strong>2</strong></li>
<li><strong>ñ</strong> is <strong>n</strong> then <strong>~</strong></li>
</ul>
<p>
It’s like drawing with your keyboard!
</p><p>
Best of all: <strong>I never need to read a manual</strong>. Drawing characters like this is so intuitive that <strong>my first guess is always correct.</strong> That’s the core of usability, right?
</p><p>
See the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compose_key">Wikipedia page</a> for more info.
</p><p>
(Windows people, don’t despair. There’s a free tool called <a href="http://allchars.zwolnet.com/">AllChars</a> that will let your Windows PC have this cool compose key function. Try it! It’s fun!)
</p>
<img src="http://sivers.org/images/menukey.jpg" width="500" height="375" alt="http://www.flickr.com/photos/blyzz/2244004806/" />