Saturday, January 10, 2009

Typing Nonstandard Characters in Ubuntu

Typing characters that are not standard in English, such as é, ç, ß, ø, æ, and å, can be done quite easily in Linux without any modifications. In most situations, you can do this by using the Character Map utility included in your system, which can be found at Applications -> Accessories -> Character Map.

To input the character you want, just select the language or character set in the left pane of the window, and then, in the right pane, click on the character you want to input. The character will appear in the little input box next to the words Text to copy at the bottom of the window. Just click the Copy button, and then paste the character wherever you want to place it. In certain applications, such as the various modules, this method will not work. In these cases, the program usually offers a method of its own. In, for example, you can click Insert in the menu bar and then select Special Character. A selection window will open, and you can select the character you want there. Once you’ve done that, click the OK button, and the character will appear in your document, after which the selection window will close by itself.

Using the Compose Key Option
If you only need to type an accent or umlaut once in a while, and don’t feel particularly keen on opening an application or going to a special menu to do so, using the compose key option for your keyboard is a good way to go. Basically what this means is that you use one of the lesser-used keys on your keyboard in conjunction with six symbols (` , ' ~ " ^) to help in the creation, so to speak, of accented characters. By default, the compose key is the right ALT key. Let’s say, for example, that you wanted to type an umlauted u (ü). While pressing the right ALT key, you would press ". Then you would release the right ALT key, press u, and . . . voilà, you’d have yourself an ü.

Using the Keyboard Indicator
If you often type in a particular foreign language, it might be more convenient for you to use the Keyboard Indicator GNOME Panel utility. This utility lets you switch quickly among various keyboard layouts. For example, if you often type in Swedish, and thus use the characters å, ä, and ö regularly, using the appropriate keyboard layout would be easier than repeatedly using the Character Map. Of course, you will have to familiarize yourself with the keyboard layout, or keymap, for each language you choose, but this is a relatively easy task.

The Keyboard Indicator is already included in your system, so there is no need to install it. To access it, simply right-click somewhere on the GNOME Panel where you would like to place a launcher for it. Then, from the popup menu select Add to Panel. When the Add to Panel window appears, scroll down and click Keyboard Indicator, and then click the Add button. The letters USA or GBr will then appear on the panel.

Now, this alone will give you nothing except your default keymap, so you must configure Keyboard Indicator if you want to be able to use other keymaps. To do so, just right-click the icon, and from the popup menu select Open Keyboard Preferences, which will open the Keyboard Preferences window.

To add a keymap, click the Layouts tab in that window, and then once in the new tab, click Add. After you do this, the Choose a Layout window will appear with a list of the keymaps available to you. In the left pane of that window, scroll down to the keymap for the country of the language you want to add, and then click it to select the standard keyboard layout for that locale (click the arrow next to the country for a list of optional layouts if you prefer). Once you’ve made your selection, click the OK button, which will bring you back to the Keyboard Preferences window, where you will find your new keymap listed along with the original. You can then click the Close button to complete the setup.

After closing the Keyboard Preferences window, the keyboard layouts can be changed by clicking the icon in the panel. You can also change between keyboard layouts by going to the Layout Options tab of the Keyboard Preferences window and assigning a keyboard shortcut. If you are not sure where the keys you want to type are located in your new keymap, switch to the keymap in question by clicking the panel Keyboard Indicator until it appears and then right-clicking it. In the popup menu that appears, select Layout View, after which a map of the new layout will appear in a separate window. The default window size is quite small, but it can be resized in the usual dragthe-corner manner.

If you just want to choose a single keyboard layout to replace your present one (such as British English instead of American English or German instead of Spanish), you can do so from the Keyboard Preferences window by adding the keyboard layout you want to use, checking the box next to the word Default, and then removing the original layout by clicking it once to select it and clicking the Remove button.

Source of Information : Ubuntu for Non-Geeks (2nd Ed)

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