Since I'm also hoping to learn more about Linux, I'm working on this project mostly on my ThinkPad rather than my Mac. Since I'm also continuing my quest to make the key commands of Vim second-nature so it will be in practice and not just in theory faster than a conventional text editor, I've been doing my mark-up using that editor; some time ago I started using it and added useful macros for LaTeX mark-up to my .vimrc file so I can add a variety of tags and move to the next line with easy pairs of keystrokes.
A few days ago while writing HTML mark-up in Vim for my day job, I was reminded again that I wasn't able to do my usual find-and-replace for single and double curly (a.k.a. "smart") quotes; in the past I've shrugged my shoulders and opened the file with gedit and used its more obvious interface to switch them. In Mac OS X you can type those curly characters easily with combinations of option, shift, and square brackets, but those particular key combinations don't work the same way in Ubuntu (or possibly Gnome or Linux in general). The obvious solution of copying and pasting that I use in my favorite mouse-centric Mac text editor, Smultron (sadly no longer under development), is foiled by Vim's modal nature: hitting
pto paste simply types "p" into the find space in a substitute command. What to do?
After using gedit to clean up my work code and uploading the file, I remembered that sometime in the past I'd seen a Vim command that would provide information about a character under the cursor. A few seconds' search turned it up:
ga. Now, would it be possible to use that information to type a character not transparently accessible?
As it turns out, yes, although it wasn't as obvious as it might have been. Using
gaprints a line at the bottom of the window like this one for a question mark:
63, Hex 3f, Octal 077
Checking charts of code points it turned out that 63 is the decimal value of the question mark. I eventually found in the Vim documentation that using Control-V, with or without an additional letter, would let me type any character I wanted if I knew its code points; Control-V u, 16-bit hexadecimal, is most useful because — if my understanding of Unicode code ranges is correct — it'll work for any Western language.
Turning to Hyginus, the challenge there lies in producing macrons. One of the first things I did when I installed Ubuntu was to try to figure out how to add diacritical marks like accents, and I learned quickly that it's necessary to select a modifier key in System->Preferences->Keyboard->Layouts->Layout Options->Compose Key Position, which gives you seven options (although my keyboard lacks two of the choices). I picked the right control key and that's worked well for me. Key combinations for common (and some uncommon, like the dot-less i, ı, used in Turkish) Latin alphabet diacriticals are explained at this helpful page but macrons are not among those listed.
I found a partial answer by looking inside my
/usr/share/X11/locale/en_US.UTF-8/Composefile: macrons are made by using the compose key and underscores. However, oddly, using the same keystrokes that successfully overline e, i, u, and y, a and o are instead transformed into the feminine and masculine ordinal indicators, small superscript letters that are underlined in some fonts as well. Unfortunately I'm not able to interpret the
Composefile, which is not transparent in its meaning.
Interestingly, e, i, and u are all overlined by right-control--hyphen as well as by right-control--underscore (i.e., the shift key isn't necessary), but to overline y the shift key has to be used or the Japanese yen currency character is produced.
Fortunately, there's a simple solution for macrons for the 5 common vowels: switching to the Maori keyboard, a trick I learned from an early version of Mac OS X. Adding the Maori keyboard is pretty simple: System->Preferences->Keyboard->Layouts->Add...
And that's a handy ellipsis, because it inspired me to think to check whether Ubuntu might include something comparable to OS X's US Extended keyboard, and in fact there's a "USA International (with dead keys)" which creates macrons for all 5 vowels the way I´d expected. On the other hand, it also requires use of the right ALT key to create single and double straight quotes, so it's a mixed blessing.
Next layout research project? Polytonic Greek, which is apparently not well-served in its ancient form by the built-in "Greece Polytonic" keyboard. I'll probably start here.