Monday, January 30, 2012

Esperanto Accented Characters in Ubuntu

Today I got fed up with typing Esperanto using the x-method, the practice of following letters that would be accented with an X since the accented characters aren't on the typical keyboard. For example, the word "ankaŭ" would be typed as "ankaux." This is the 21st century, though, and there had to be some easy way enter properly-accented characters!

Believe it or not, there is an Esperanto keymap, but I didn't feel like going that extreme since it would make entering other characters that I type on a day-to-day basis more difficult.

Instead I tracked down how to augment my English (US) keymap with the extra functionality I needed, and it was easier than I had expected it to be. So if you want to set up your keyboard to type Esperanto accented characters, here's the steps.

First, find the Keyboard Layout applet in Ubuntu/Gnome's System Settings window.

Then, select the keymap you want to modify (here there's only one) and click the Options button in the bottom-right corner of the screen.

The Keyboard Layout Options window that opens has a list of options that you can use to fine-tune the behavior of the keymap. The two options of interest are:

  • Adding Esperanto circumflexes (supersigno) – To the corresponding key in a Qwerty keyboard
  • Keys to choose 3rd level – Right Alt

Each key can be thought of having multiple levels. For example, the first level of the C key would be a lower-case "c". The second level would an upper-case "C" (the second level is accessible the Shift key as a modifier). The supersigno option maps the accented characters to the third and fourth levels of the keys of their respective base glyphs. That is, the third level of the C key is now "ĉ” and the fourth is "Ĉ".

Just as a modifier key is needed to access the second level (Shift), a modifier is also used to access the higher levels. In my case I set this as the Right Alt key, a key traditionally used for this purpose.

I want to give a great big shout out to Maxx Solomon in whose blog I found the original directions. His method was much easier to follow and configure then all the stale X.Org setting tutorials I found from the late 90's. I figured I'd do my own write up as well to increase the changes of others finding it when they search, and because I was feeling guilty about not writing anything in a couple months in my blog. :) Feel free to stop over to his blog and say hi; I'm sure he wouldn't mind the extra traffic.


  1. I'd never heard of Esperanto before and had to look it up. Interesting!

    Luckily I didn't have that much trouble setting up my keyboard for Japanese, now I just press Ctrl+Space to enable foreign characters or again to disable it. The only annoying thing about it is that I have to restart the ibus preferences every time I reboot my computer. Maybe there is a way to fix that, but I haven't looked into it.

  2. Yeah, I could have gone that route and used the Eo key-mapping, but I felt the other method was more preferable. I wouldn't think there'd be such an alternative for Japanese.

  3. I cannot get this to work for any of the Dvorak keyboards. Any ideas? (Dankon.)

  4. Nedankinde, Scott! If you're using Dvorak, then select "To the corresponding key in a Dvorak keyboard" for the supersigno option. Bonŝancon.

  5. Thanks! And what a coincidence, I saw you on yesterday

  6. Saluton!
    La ebleco facile elekti 'Adding Esperanto circumflexes (supersigno)' malaperis en Ubuntu 14.04.

    Ekde Ubuntu 14 vi instalu 'gnome-tweak-tool' kaj
    elektu 'Typing' (tajpado, la 2a vico plej supre) kaj 'Adding Esperanto Supersigned Letters' kaj 'To the corresponding key in a QUERTY layoyt'