Compose Special Characters


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Average: 4.5 (20 votes)

Calc, Writer
special characters, extension, accented characters, extension, international, extension
Post date:
Monday, 21 April, 2008 - 18:07
Week: Not tracked - Month: Not tracked - Year: Not tracked
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System Independent version - All releases
Compatible with OpenOffice 4: Unknown
User feedback:
Compatible with OpenOffice 4.x?

Compose Special Characters lets you type two or three characters and use a keyboard shortcut to convert them into a single accented or special character.

You can also compose unicode characters using the 4 character unicode value.

Writer and Calc are currently supported.


After you install the extension you need to restart OpenOffice. After you restart OO you'll find Compose Special Characters on the Insert menu (Insert > Compose Characters...).

For more detailed instructions and support see


If you have any problems using the extension and need help resolving them, please email [support] (remove the square brackets before emailing). I'm happy to help but it's more efficient to discuss technical issues by email.

Compose Special Characters

Version Operating system Compatibility Release date
2.0.10 System Independent 2.x, 3.0, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4 25/12/2010 - 17:34 More information Download


I used this on Windows 10, and LibreOffice I used it to simply create upward and downward accents on vowels. It worked fine.

Hi there. I'm using LibreOffice on Windows 7.
I've installed the extension, and I'm setting up the CSC shortcuts as I'm used to, e.g. ALT+a, CTRL+a, but afterwards as I press the combination nothing happens, not even an error message. No combo with either ALT or CTRL works.
Any suggestions, what do I do?

Hi there. I've just installed Compose Special Characters to LibreOffice 3.6 but now I'm in a little trouble: typing "Shift + s" in order to get the capital "s", doesnt work. I've also tried to uninstall both the extension and LibreOffice, and then reinstall LO, but it really doesnt work. If the extension is installed, "Shift + s" simply doesnt lead anywhere. If the extension is not installed, I get this error (click on the link)

The translation of the first words is: "Error in the scripting scheme during the execution of the script Basic [...]". What can I do now? Thanks a lot.

Thank you very much for this extension, it has solved many of the problems that arise from my using several languages every day and, often enough, in the same document.

I have managed to assign a CSC short cut so that I can write the Spanish character ñ, but I need to type "n~" plus my shortcut combination I used "shift+ctrl+~", because that was my short cut on MS word and I've been using it for years. Now I wonder if there is a way that is easier than having to press 6 keys altogether for one tiny letter. Since I work with three languages simultaneously, I don't want to switch to a Spanish keyboard. I use my German keyboard, easiest for all the Umlauts ä, ü etc.

I'm sure there must be many people switching between English and Spanish on a daily basis.
If you know anything, I would greatly appreciate your help!

Thanks for getting in touch. I'm sorry to hear the extension didn't meet your needs.

It sounds like you may have tried to assign the spacebar as a shortcut key. That's not supported and there are warnings in the extension against assigning important keys like spacebar, backspace etc to shortcuts.

You can reset your keyboard accelerators using the following instructions:

1. Close all OpenOffice applications, including the quickstarter that might be running in the background.

2. Find the OpenOffice file called accelerators.xcs and rename it (to accelerators.old for example). How you find and rename a file depends on your operating system. Please check with your regular operating system support/help for instructions on how to find a file. Helpful tip if you're using Windows: Make sure hidden system files are visible in Windows Explorer - highlight the C: drive under Computer, click Organize at the top of the Windows Explorer window, then choose Folder and search options to open the Folder Options dialog - in that dialog make sure you select Show hidden files, folders and drives.

3. Restart your computer to make the old acclerators.xcs file isn't being referred to in memory.

The next time you start OpenOffice your keyboard should be back to the original OpenOffice defaults.

If deleting accelerators.xcs doesn't work, then you'll probably need to reinstall OpenOffice. OpenOffice doesn't uninstall cleanly - it leaves a bit of junk behind (that's beyond my control). You'll need to search for any remaining copies of accelerators.xcs and delete them manually.

Hello = Nín hăo OpenOffice Staff & Associates,

I had download and installed the Compose Special Characters.

I use the CSC shortcut. I click check mark Ctl for the Character key
and selected the radio button Character and selected k for the keyboard
shortcut combination of Ctrl + k to produce my Hanyu Pinyin tone number
symbols above the Roman alphabet letters.

When I try to produce the Hanyu Pinyin tone number 1 for the Roman alphabet
lower case letter i the i sign mark above the i disappear, but produces the Hanyu
Pinyin tone number with the Compose Special Character { Char = key combo a- }
as my selection.

Example Error: Nín hăo.

The Hanyu Pinyin tone number symbols is in error for the Roman alphabet letter i for
the word { Nín } and excellent for the Hanyu Pinyin tone number Roman alphabet letter
a for the word { hăo }

Your CSC and Compose Special Character { Char = key combo a- } features should
produce the Hanyu Pinyin tone number symbol above the Roman alphabet letter i that
shows the symbol i above the i with the Hanyu Pinyin tone number symbol above the
Roman alphabet letter.

Please assist and help me with your features, and/or make corrections with your features.

Have a nice day. Take care. Talk to you later on. Keep up the good work. Keep one foot forward. Keep it real. OpenOffice is kool.

Thank you very much. = Xièxiè nĭ.
Peaceout...Mr. YoBlackBlack

OOo 3.3.0 RC1 – I also had the error message:
Error # 13: Data type mismatch."

It seems to be fixed now (for me)...
Please have a look at →

"Compose Special Characters 2.0.7 / OOo 3.3.0 RC1 – error"

Beta versions of OpenOffice are not supported for this extension, so please use the extension only with released versions.

I haven't been able to reproduce the error you're reporting but I'll keep trying.

I can see this on 3.2.1 and on 3.3 beta. Trying to insert a combining character (for example, U+0306 over an "a") gives me a series of errors. The first one is the most strange of all:

The use of unicode combining characters in the following ranges is not recommended in OpenOffice 2.x. They may not display properly.
Please upgrade to OpenOffice 3.x

Accepting, I have an "Error # 13"
Then an "Accept" button.
Then... the character is inserted.
Inserting "normal" unicode characters works as intended. The problem is present only with combining characters.
I'm on 64 bits Linux (openSUSE 11.2) and this happens with both, Novell's and vanilla OOo builds. OOo is also 64 bits. Extension version is 2.0.7

The website is back up. Please try again.

The extension doesn't have any connection to the website - it works just fine without any internet connection.

Ff tells me it can't find the site. That means the links on this page and in the extension itself, and presumably the email address, are not working. --TJ Frazier

It would be great if I good use this extension to create numerals with overbars. Can that be done? Keep up the good work!

I have a similar problem to Danny Spelzmann's. I installed the extension, restarted OO, opened Compose characters, assigned the keys ALT+F1 as keyboard shortcuts, closed the dialogue box, and typed a' then ALT+F1 but nothing happened. Restarted OO, typed the same thing and the shortcuts but nothing again. Checked under Tools>Customize>Keyboard if F1 was assigned to anything else but there was nothing beside it. Saw too that F6 was free. So I cleared ALT+F1, set it again, tried it out, and nothing. Cleared ALT+F1, assigned ALT+F6 this time and went through the same procedures and nothing. How can I resolve this, please?

Tehnical support is only available by contacting the support email address listed in the extension description above - support@(etc...).

I installed the extension about two months ago and couldn't really get it to work (maybe I was missing something). Then I decided I didn't really need it anyway, and disabled it. And since then I've not been able to use my space bar to produce the space character (ironically, I actually have to use the Insert Special Character on the menu to do this!). Anytime I hit my space bar, I get the following message:

A Scripting Framework error occurred while running the Basic script

Message: The following Basic script could not be found:
library: "ComposeSpecialChars"
module: "modCode"
method: "ComposeSpecialChar"
location: "application"

At present, I've removed the extension, but I still get this message. What can I do about this, please? It sounds like everyone really appreciates this extension, but I'm really regretting installing it right now . . . I'm feeling quite frustrated.


I'm sorry to hear you're having problems. It sounds like you assigned the extension macro to your spacebar which is not advised - it's not a good idea to assign anything to critical keys like spacebar or backspace unless it's in combination with other keys. The extension includes a warning message checking to make sure that you've chosen a wise shortcut before continuing.

The OpenOffice keyboard customisation tool doesn't allow you to assign/unassign macros to the spacebar, so it seems you'll have to reset all your keyboard shortcuts to what they were when you first installed OO. You can do that without reinstalling OO by renaming the file "acclerators.xcu" in your OO user profile:

  1. Close OpenOffice and the QuickStarter if that's running (in Windows the QuickStarter appears as an OpenOffice icon in your Windows system tray - you can close it by right clicking on the icon and choosing "Exit Quickstarter")
  2. Search for the filename "accelerators.xcu" on your computer. In Windows, use Windows Search and make sure you tick the option to search hidden files and folders. Or you can open the following folder (replace [YOURPROFILENAME] with your personal profile name):

    C:\Documents and Settings\[YOURPROFILENAME]\Application Data\\3\user\registry\data\org\openoffice\Office
  3. Change the name of that file to "accelators.xcu.old"

The next time you start Open OpenOffice all your keyboard shortcuts will be reset to what they were when you first installed OpenOffice, and your spacebar should be working properly again.

Please let me know if that doesn't work. It would be great if you'd like to try the extension again and I'd be happy to help with any questions you might have. It's best to reach me at the support email listed in the extension profile: [feedback] (remove the square brackets before emailing).

Please, can you add converting hexadecimal number to unicode? For example, you type 2248, press a shortcut and get .

Thanks for the suggestion, I'll see what I can do.

Followed directions several times. I choose a shortcut etc but then the shortcut combo does not do what it is supposed to. If the combo had not been assigned, nothing happens. If the combo had been previously assigned and I cleared it and then reassigned it, it reverts to the old assignment. When I check the shortcuts in the "customize" menu tree, the key combo I have chosen actually does show up as assigned to this application. So that is confusing. Would appreciate help. Thanks. OO 3.1 on OS X 10.5.8

Hi - I'm sorry to hear you're having problems. The best way to get help is to email [feedback] as mentioned in a previous comment (remove the square brackets before emailing!).

If you'd like to email me at the above address with a bit more detail (for instance what keyboard shortcut are you trying to assign) that would help in trying to sort out what's going on.

If you see error messages after updating to OO 3.0.1 or 3.1, please uninstall the extension and reinstall it. Something about the OO updater causes problems for some extensions that are already installed. Uninstalling and reinstalling the extension solves the problem.

Compose Special Characters works fine with OO 3.0.

I do not mean to be rude but it seems this can already be accomplished with autocorrect?

It's a good question. AutoCorrect has its place but it also has limitations:

  1. AutoCorrect doesn't seem to work in the middle or at the end of a word. For example if you've defined e' to be replaced with é in the AutoCorrect replacement table and you're trying to type Société, when you type Socie' and press F3 to fire AutoCorrect, nothing happens except you get a space after the e' (at least in OO2.4).
  2. Even if AutoCorrect worked the way you want whenever you pressed F3, you have to add your own compose combinations to the AutoCorrect replacement table. That's not necessarily a disadvantage, but if you have a lot of characters to add to the replacement table that could be an annoyance. And it's a waste of time for thousands of people to do that if they can just download an extension and have it done for them.

Of course if AutoCorrect suits you, by all means use it.

I've gone through the process to assign to write "o" with a macron over it, but it will not work at all. When I hit the keys in swriter, the message comes back that whatever character precedes the place where I attempted to type "is not defined as an accented character". This is after the "compose special characters" process has assured me that the shortcut keys I assigned were completed successfully. This extension would make my life much easier, and without a way to shortcut macron vowels, I am afraid that I may have to go back to a commercial processor. Please help!

You need to type either "o-" (for ō) or "O-" (for Ō) then press the keyboard shortcut you assigned to Compose Special Characters. I've retested those combinations and they work. Those character combinations ("o-" and "O-") are listed in the Compose Special Characters dialog in the "o" section.

It sounds like you assigned the extension to shortcut keys (Alt+o?) - which is good. Have you typed "o-" then pressed your shortcut keys?

You can't use the extension to assign a keyboard shortcut (like Alt+o) to a specific special character, that's not the way it works. It's designed to let people compose lots of different characters by typing two composing characters then using the shortcut key(s) they assign to combine the two characters they typed into one special character.

The characters you need to type for different characters are listed in the Compose Special Characters dialog (Insert > Compose Character...).

That works fine. I misunderstood how the extension works. This still makes it a bit faster than using the insert option.

Do you know if there are any other options in swriter to assign a keyboard shortcut to a special character? I really miss the convenience of being able to set my own one-stroke shortcut.

Thanks very much for your help and your extension!

Glad to help. The only way I can think of to assign a shortcut to a special character is if you record your own macro and assign that to a keyboard shortcut. That works just fine if you've got a small number of special characters that you use over and over. But there's only a limited number of keyboard shortcuts you can assign in OO (unfortunately) so you're limited in how many of those macros you could set up...

The best way to request additional characters, submit feature requests, or give feedback is to contact [feedback] (remove the square brackets before sending). I'm happy to help - doing so by email can be easier in case there are any questions...

I find this extension very useful but I am missing some essential characters. Is there any way to write a tilde e: ẽ, tilde iota: ῖ and this one: υ with your extension?
I can find those characters in special characters then extended Greek and extended Latin.

Upper and lower case i with tilde and upper and lower case upsilon characters were both already in the extension. I've added the upper and lower case e with tilde to version 1.2.9 (out now).

The extension doesn't include every character in the OO Special Characters dialog for performance reasons - the aim is to include the characters that people use on a regular basis. Characters are added as people request them.

I've emailed you with a question about the last character you mentioned.

What's the difference between this extention and 'Accentuate'. Which one is the better extension?

This extension:

  1. includes twice as many characters
  2. allows you to choose which shortcut key you want to use
  3. works in Writer and Calc
  4. lets you look up characters in a categorised list within Writer or Calc (Insert > Compose Character...) without having to open up a separate uncategorised document

I was wondering whether I should try to use the you3 method to indicate third tone, but this by far more aesthetically pleasing.

However, I must say that the instructions could use a little help. That is
1. Install
2. Restart OOO
3. Tools -> Customize... -> Keyboard Tab
4. Select Macro + user + ComposeSpecialChars + ModCode
5. Choose ComposeSpecialChar
6. Choose keyboard combination
7. Click modify button.

It was not easy to find the ComposeSpecialChar!


Glad you like it!

I've made the instructions clearer. The original instructions said that you could use a button on the Compose Special Dialog to set the shortcut key - I've added more specific instructions for doing that. That's easier and more flexible than using the built in OO customise keyboard interface that you listed in your comment.

There is a problem with the new (and great!) Greek character shortcuts: tau and theta use the same \t shortcut. I think \q is better for theta

Thanks for letting me know!

Theta is now \q and \Q, Tau remains \t and \T.

Thanks to YOU for your great (and quick!) work!!!

Greek characters have been added - \a = alpha, \b = beta, \g = gamma and so on. See the Compose Special Characters dialog for details (Insert > Compose Character...).

Also, a bug affecting inserting characters in Calc has been fixed.

I do like the idea of this extension! However, as I do often need shortcuts to the greek letters, I would like to be able to add my own character combinations. I did find the way to change the array in the macro itself, but unfortunately changes are overwritten on extension updates. Am I missing an obvious way of assigning my own special characters? Thanks again for this extension!

I'm thinking about how it might be possible for users to add their own character combinations. The issue is that the extension is written in OOBasic which is, well, pretty basic in its capabilities. I'm not sure it's doable so that the extension is still maintainable and performs quickly. It's definitely on the hope-to-do list. In the meantime I'll email you regarding the list of the characters you're talking about and suggested keystroke combinations for them, which I'll be happy to add them in to a future release. (To keep this thread readable, please don't post them here.)

And thanks, glad you like the extension!

This is great - I'd love to see it extended to include the charaters with a dot underneath that are used in Devanagari transliteration, like ḍḥḷṃṇṛṣṭ (which probably won't come out on the web page!), but I suppose there's infinite room for expanding this. Perhaps there's scope for an expandable database of characters and their shortcuts that the extension could call from? Then they could also be grouped by accent as well as character. Meanwhile, this is really useful as it's the only quick way to produce characters with a macron, like ē. Thanks!

Glad you like it! Characters with dots underneath have been added in version 1.2.1. Also the key combinations for Ĉ and š have been fixed.

Thanks, that's great! A couple more requests:
Is there any way for your extension to detect the platform it's running on, and display modifier keys accordingly? On a mac, the available modifiers are Shift and Cmd only. Using CSC on a mac the Set Keyboard Shortcut panel shows Alt/Alt Grey options which can't be used, and Ctl which should read Cmd (as that's the modifier that gets used if you check the Ctl box).
I noticed that if I reassign the keyboard shortcut, the old one stays assigned to CSC too (unless I use the Clear Shortcut button first). Can CSC clear the last key assignment if the user changes to a new one? (Or to be really fancy, remember what it overwrote last time and restore the old assignment if there was one?)

CSC is written in OOBasic. Unfortunately I don't believe OOBasic is capable of detecting the user's OS/hardware, but I'll look into it. So for now, in the Assign Shortcut dialog, Mac users should use the Ctl checkbox for their Cmd key.

You're correct, if you reassign the CSC macro to another keyboard shortcut using the CSC Assign Shortcut dialog, you need to unassign the previous shortcut. You can use the Clear Shortcut button for that. It's the same with OO's built in keyboard customisation feature - OO's customisation doesn't unassign keyboard shortcuts if you assign something to a new shortcut (unless you're overwriting a shortcut of course).

Hope that helps...

I second the "WOW" one user expressed. I do a significant amount of writing in Chinese pinyin. I was using "Insert" and "Special Character" then cutting and pasting. Very labor intensive! "Compose Special Characters" has been unbelievable in speeding up my pinyin entry. I cannot say enough good about it.

Initially I had a small problem. The "flag" key, necessary when entering Special Characters in Calc (not necessary in Writer), did not appear on my U.S. keyboard. I sent email to the author Chuck Henrich explaining my problem. He could not have been more accommodating. He added the provision of a user-selected "flag" for use in Calc and all my problems were solved.

If you need to use special characters, primarily non-English language marks, this is THE add-on you need and want!

I found a little problem with the "==" shortcut not working on version 1.0.94. This can be easily fixed by editing the "fncCharacterArray" macro. Just change the line
arrChars(1,255) = "== "
arrChars(1,255) = "=="
(that is, erase the extra space after the two equal signs)
A typo, I suppose ;)

Thanks for the kind words! Version 1.1.1 fixes that bug relating to shortcuts ending with "=".

I've had some reports of Ubuntu users experiencing problems with the size of the Compose Special Characters reference dialog in OO 2.4.x. Sometimes it appears full size, other times it appears just as the upper left hand corner of the full dialog. The problem affects a number of extensions, not just this one. It seems to be due to a combination of bugs in Ubuntu's graphics handling and their version of OO 2.4.x. For more detail see:

The OO developers are working on a fix. In the meantime if you're a Ubuntu user and you're having problems with the size of extensions' dialog boxes you might want to change your graphics mode to "None" (in Ubuntu: System -> Preferences -> Appearance).

Version 1.0.88 fixes a conflict with the copyright symbol so if you download a previous version please update to 1.0.88. Thanks and please get in touch if you find any bugs or have any suggestions, feedback is most welcome.