You can find the latest version of this document at

This document is the translation from Greek (slightly obsolete) of


2010-07-05: Add information on Ubuntu 10.04; this version of Linux requires to add the new layout from System » Preferences » Keyboard » Layouts

2010-06-10: Updated text about 3.2, which now supports OpenType fonts with PostScript outlines.

2010-06-05: Updated URL to Greek (gr) layout file on

2010-01-15: Updated section about OpenOffice and OpenType support.

2009-05-27: Added image that shows the new Greek layout. Added description on how to read the image.

2009-05-27: Added section on and the lack of support for OpenType fonts in Linux.

2009-05-11: Fixed Polytonic instructions; AltGr+] is for ypogegrammeni (instead of the wrong AltGr+}). (Thanks Christos Nouskas)

2009-05-11: Fixed Polytonic instructions; Psili and Daseia require AltGr+: and AltGr+" respectively (not vice versa). (Thanks Christos Nouskas)

 Writing Greek, Greek Polytonic (Ancient Greek) on Linux (X.Org 1.6+)

  1. Writing Greek, Greek Polytonic (Ancient Greek) on Linux (X.Org 1.6+)
  1. Summary
  2. Adding the Greek layout
  3. New basic Greek layout
  4. Available Greek Polytonic fonts
  5. Technical information
  6. Contact
  7. Thanks


In Linux distributions that first appear from spring 2009, it is possible to write Greek and Greek Polytonic (Ancient Greek) simply by adding the Greek keyboard layout. In this document we show in detail how to add the Greek keyboard layout and how to write in Greek. In previous versions of distributions, one had to enable a specialised Greek Polytonic layout, which was awkward to use.

 Adding the Greek layout

If you use Ubuntu 10.04, Fedora 13 or any other distribution with GNOME 2.30, you need to add the Greek Polytonic layout from System » Preferences » Keyboard » Layouts. Once you perform that, then the Keyboard Indicator applet appears and you can follow the rest of the tutorial. The screenshots below that show how to manually add the applet apply to previous versions of Linux distributions. With Ubuntu 10.04+ or Fedora 13+ you essentially need to start at Step 4 from below, and you get there if you open System » Preferences » Keyboard » Layouts.

We show how to add the Greek keyboard layout in GNOME. Instructions for KDE, XFCE and other environments are very much welcome.

1. Right-Click on the panel and select Add to Panel...

2. From the list of applets, select Keyboard Indicator and click on Add. Then, click on Close.

3. On my system, the default layout GBr (Great Britain) is shown. In your case you might see US, or something similar (such as Fr, Es or De).

4. Right-click on the layout name (on GBr in my case) so that you get the Keyboard Preferences option, and open it.

5. These are the default settings when you install your distribution. In my case, the default is Great Britain. Notice the + button. This button allows to add additional layouts. Click on +.

6. Select Greece for both Country and Variant. This is the new default layout that includes support for Greek, Greek Polytonic and Ancient Greek characters. Finally, click on Add.

7. The new layout is enabled. We did not finish yet; we need to configure the keyboard shortcut to switch between our native layout and Greek. The default keyboard shortcut is Alt+AltGr, which many users may not find convenient. In addition, it may not even work in some cases due to a bug in the X.Org. We click on Other Options... in order to configure the keyboard shortcut.

8. Under the heading Layout switching, locate and enable the option Alt+Shift change layout. Untick any other option. I think that Alt+Shift is one of the most common shortcuts for switching layouts. (My personal preference however is Both Shift keys together change layout). Then, click on Close.

9. Notice the two layouts. In the Type to test settings you can test both Greek and your original layout. Use the shortcut to switch between layouts. You can also switch by simply clicking on the Keyboard Indicator applet. Finally click on Close.

 New basic Greek layout

The following image shows the placement of characters on the keyboard.

In each key, you can see up to four characters shown, distributed in two columns. For examples, notice the key for μ, Μ, ϻ, Ϻ.

The first column indicates that you press the key by itself or with Shift. That is, if you press the m key (as used in QWERTY keyboards), you get μ.

If you press with Shift, you get Μ.

The second column indicates that keep pressed AltGr and then you press the key by itself, or with Shift. Therefore, if you press AltGr + Shift + m-key, you get Ϻ (Greek Capital Letter San).

The following table shows how to write modern Greek using the dead keys and other special characters. The subsequent table shows how to write additional characters for Greek Polytonic.


Key combination

Works for...

Tonos/Acute ΄

Dead key (;) + vowel

All vowels: ά έ ή ί ύ ό ώ

Dialytika ¨

Dead key (:) + vowel

These vowels: ϊ ϋ

Dialytika with Tonos

Dead key (;) + Dead key (:) + vowel

These vowels: ΐ ΰ

Dialytika with Tonos

Dead key (:) + Dead key (;) + vowel

These vowels ΐ ΰ

Ano Teleia ·

AltGr + (>)

Greek brackets « »

Key \ produces «         Key | produces »

Greek brackets « »

AltGr + , produces «    AltGr + . produces »

Table 1 How to type modern Greek


Key combination

Works for...

Περισπωμένη ῀

AltGr + Dead key ([) + vowel

 ᾶ ῆ ῖ ῦ ῶ

Υπογεγραμμένη ͺ

AltGr + Dead key (]) + vowel

 ᾳ ῃ ῳ

Ψιλή ᾿

AltGr+ Dead key (:) + vowel or the letter ρ

 ἀ ἐ ἠ ἰ ὐ ὀ ὠ ῤ

Δασεία ῾

AltGr+ Dead key (") + vowel or the letter ρ

ἁ ἑ ἡ ἱ ὑ ὁ ὡ ῥ

Βαρεία `

AltGr+ Dead key (') + vowel

 ὰ ὲ ὴ ὶ ὺ ὸ ὼ

Μακρόν ¯

AltGr+ Dead key ({) + vowel

 ᾱ ῑ ῡ

Βραχύ ˘

AltGr+ Dead key (}) + vowel

 ᾰ ῐ ῠ

Table 2 How to type Greek Polytonic

Note: You can stack together multiple dead keys in order to produce any allowed combination (such as ᾧ).


Συνδυασμός πλήκτρων


Sampi Ϡ ϡ

AltGr + Ππ                (pP)

ϡ Ϡ

Koppa Ϟ ϟ

AltGr + Κκ                (kK)

ϟ Ϟ

Digamma Ϝϝ

AltGr + Γγ                 (gG)

ϝ Ϝ

Stigma Ϛ ϛ

AltGr + ςΣ                                 (wW)

ϛ Ϛ

Theta ϑ ϴ

AltGr + θΘ                (uU)

ϑ ϴ

Yot ϳ

AltGr + ι                                    (i)


Numeral sign ʹ

AltGr + ν                   (n)


Lower numeral sign ͵

AltGr + Ν                 (N)


Table 3 How to type other Ancient characters

 Available Greek Polytonic fonts

Most Linux distributions come with Greek Polytonic fonts which allows to start working as soon as you enable the Greek keyboard layout. If you wish to add additional Greek Polytonic fonts, make sure you select a Unicode font.

If you would like to explore additional Greek Polytonic fonts, we suggest to try the fonts produced by the Greek Font Society. Your distribution probably has those fonts in the repositories, thus you simply need to open your package manager and install. For Ubuntu, the package names are

In Debian/Ubuntu you can install all these fonts with the command

sudo apt-get install ttf-gfs-artemisia ttf-gfs-baskerville ttf-gfs-bodoni-classic ttf-gfs-complutum ttf-gfs-didot-classic ttf-gfs-gazis ttf-gfs-neohellenic ttf-gfs-solomos ttf-gfs-theokritos

The default font in Fedora, Liberation, does not include Greek Polytonic support. If you would like to help, please see the following bug report It is quite possible there is already a recommended Greek Polytonic font for Fedora. Contact me to add the info here.

A note about

Starting from 3.2 (released in January 2010), it is now possible to use OpenType fonts with PostScript outlines in for Linux. That is, almost any Greek Polytonic font should be supported out of the box.

There is an issue with some fonts and for versions up to (and including) 3.1. If you encounter a problem (that is, fonts are not detected), it is recommended to use the default fonts of your distribution (such as Sans (in practice it is DejaVu Sans), shipped by default in Ubuntu Linux; works great with any version of

The nature of the problem is that with up to version 3.1, fonts with PostScript outlines were not supported. Many of the new fonts you can find on the Internet are such fonts with PostScript outlines. In this case, if you are affected and you need to use an OpenType font with PostScript outlines, you can simply install OpenOffice 3.2. OpenOffice 3.2 has been released in January 2010 and is available by default in Ubuntu 10.04 and Fedora 13.

If you have an earlier version of, you are urged to upgrade. Failing that, you have to use fonts without PostScript outlines for Greek Polytonic. The default font in Ubuntu Linux, DejaVu Sans, is such a font and works fine with, for versions prior to 3.2. That is, if you have Ubuntu 9.10 or earlier, and you cannot install 3.2 (or newer), then you need to use special fonts that support Greek Polytonic.

Additional Greek Polytonic fonts without PostScript outlines (oftentimes called 'TrueType fonts') are

Technical information

The current Greek keyboard layout is located at

This is the upstream location of the layout.

The Greek layout file in your Linux installation is at /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/gr


The author of this document is Simos Xenitellis <>.

See blog posts on Greek Polytonic at


I would like to thank the following contributors for their work on the Greek keyboard layout (since the first version) Βασίλης Βασαΐτης, Αλέξανδρος Διαμαντίδης, and Κωνσταντίνος Πιστιόλης. If your name is not listed, feel free to contact me.


Writing Greek, Greek Polytonic (Ancient Greek) on Linux by Simos Xenitellis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.