WinCompose: use keyboard shortcuts to write special characters

Depending on how you use your computer, you sometimes may need to write special characters that your keyboard does not support out of the box.

Use an English keyboard layout and need to write an email to Sören from Germany or include ⅓ or ¼ in a financial document?

If that is the case you have plenty of options to do so including using Windows' built-in Character Map application or copying and pasting the characters from somewhere else.

Most of the solutions are not as fast as the one WinCompose offers though as it makes available all characters via keyboard shortcuts.

This works by using a modifier key on the keyboard, Alt Gr by default, and a key sequence that more often than not resembles the character you want to write. The one-fourth example from above is printed on the screen by pressing Alt Gr 1 and 4 for example.

The system tray icon changes its color to green to indicate that the compose key has been activated.


You can browse all available characters and their sequences with a right-click on the application icon in the system tray and the selection of show sequences from the context menu.

Each sequence is explained visually in the interface and there is an option to copy the resulting special character to the clipboard as well.

You can change the compose key under options and modify the delay as well there which defines the time you have to complete the sequence to print the character on the screen.

Other options provided there are to discard characters from invalid sequences, to beep on invalid sequences, and to fall back to case insensitive matches on invalid sequences.

WinCompose ships with more than 1700 special characters and sequences included.  You can add additional characters to a new text file named .XCompose that you need to save to your user profile directory.

Additional information on how that is done are found on the project website over on Github.

Closing Words

WinCompose is an excellent application for users who need to write special characters regularly on the system. While you may need to look character sequences up initially, many of them are intuitive so that they can be remembered easily.

The app runs silently in the background and uses little memory and no cpu during that time. It is available as a portable version and installer on the project website.

All in all a helpful lightweight program for the Windows operating system.

This article was first seen on ComTek's "TekBits" Technology News


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