How to Write Pāli Diacritics on Chrome OS

Beginning Pāli and Pāli Canon enthusiasts often face the problem of writing Pāli diacritics (ā, ṣ, ḍ, . . . ). Recently, the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies (OCBS) has written an excellent and recommended blog post on how to write them with Windows, Ubuntu, and macOS by installing a Pāli keyboard. However, I’m on Chrome OS, so none of the methods worked for me. Until yesterday!

Bhante Sujato kindly drew my attention to ComposeKey for Chrome OS, available at the Chrome Web Store. Here I’ll explain how to mimic the Pāli keyboard from the Vipassana Research Institute (VRI) with ComposeKey on a Chromebook. The OCBS recommends the VRI keyboard.

Setting up ComposeKey

(1) Install ComposeKey. Click on Add to Chrome. A pop-up will appear. Click on Add extension.

(2) Enable the extension. Open


and select one of the Compose Key input methods.

(3) Open


and click on Input method and select Compose Key. (You may need to sign out and back in first.)

(4) Test if it works. By default, the Compose key is [Right Alt]. Type

[Right Alt] [m] [u]

anywhere in the browser (three keystrokes, in that order). This should give “µ.” For a full list of commands, see here (scroll down).

(5) Finally, we may customize ComposeKey. To do that, click on the ComposeKey extension in the top-right of Chrome and then click on “options.” Here the Compose key may be customized.

Customizing ComposeKey for Pāli

(6) Go again to ComposeKey options, as in (5) above. Scroll down. You’ll see a big box with

include "%L"

inside. Here is where we can input custom commands. The good news is that I’ve already figured out how to do it!

Now, the VRI keyboard looks like this:

Figure 1: VRI keyboard with lowercase diacritics
Figure 2: VRI keyboard with uppercase diacritics

(7) Below

include "%L"

copy-paste the following:

<Multi_key> <a> : "\0x101"
<Multi_key> <s> : "\0x1E63"
<Multi_key> <d> : "\0x1E0D"
<Multi_key> <r> : "\0x1E5B"
<Multi_key> <t> : "\0x1E6D"
<Multi_key> <y> : "\0xF1"
<Multi_key> <u> : "\0x16B"
<Multi_key> <i> : "\0x12B"
<Multi_key> <g> : "\0x1E45"
<Multi_key> <h> : "\0x15B"
<Multi_key> <l> : "\0x1E37"
<Multi_key> <n> : "\0x1E47"
<Multi_key> <m> : "\0x1E43"

<Multi_key> <A> : "\0x100"
<Multi_key> <S> : "\0x1E62"
<Multi_key> <D> : "\0x1E0C"
<Multi_key> <R> : "\0x1E5A"
<Multi_key> <T> : "\0x1E6C"
<Multi_key> <Y> : "\0xD1"
<Multi_key> <U> : "\0x16A"
<Multi_key> <I> : "\0x12A"
<Multi_key> <G> : "\0x1E44"
<Multi_key> <H> : "\0x15A"
<Multi_key> <L> : "\0x1E36"
<Multi_key> <N> : "\0x1E46"
<Multi_key> <M> : "\0x1E42"

That’s it! To access the special characters on the VRI keyboard, simply press

[Compose key] [a]

for “ā,” [Compose key] followed by [s] for “ṣ,” etc. For capitals, press the Compose key once, and then type a capital as usual with [Shift]. For example,

[Compose key] [A]

yields “Ā.”

Further Resources

  • How to turn ComposeKey off? Click on the extension, click on Manage extension, and switch it off. After switching it back on, repeat (3).
  • For more advanced documentation on how to customize shortcuts, see the ComposeKey website and Compose. In a nutshell, the stuff in (7) between < > brackets indicate the shortcut (<Multi_key> is simply the Compose key), and the stuff between ” ” quotes indicate the Unicode Hex of the character you want to type. For example, if you prefer ṁ over ṃ, then replace
<Multi_key> <m> : "\0x1E43"
<Multi_key> <M> : "\0x1E42"


<Multi_key> <m> : "\0x1E41"
<Multi_key> <M> : "\0x1E40"

Why is that? Because the Unicode hexes for ṃ and Ṃ are 0x1E43 and 0x1E42, while the hexes for ṁ and Ṁ are 0x1E41 and 0x1E40. As another example, if you prefer to access ṃ by pressing

[Compose key] [comma] [m]

then replace

<Multi_key> <m> : "\0x1E43"


<Multi_key> <comma> <m> : "\0x1E43"


I hope this post is helpful for Pāli enthusiasts with a Chromebook! For some online courses in Pāli, click here. Feedback is welcome.

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