How do I enter Unicode characters in LaTeX? What packages do I need to install and what escape sequence do I type to specify Unicode characters in an ASCII source file?

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  • 7
    is there a reason you can't encode the source file in UTF8? – bene Oct 20 '08 at 21:05
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    @bene, even with that: inputenc with UTF-8 is more of a hack (and a very long sequence of translations between byte sequences and correspondig LaTeX commands). It's not pretty. – Joey Jan 26 '11 at 1:14
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    Why is everyone recommending XeTeX and not LuaTeX? – Canageek Nov 12 '11 at 22:50
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    Yeah, LuaTeX FTW! – ℝaphink Aug 30 '12 at 22:04
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    If you're a Mac user, you might be interested in this answer, which describes how I made a custom keyboard layout full of math symbols, greek letters, and so on. – John Wickerson Apr 22 '13 at 20:47

Have you considered using XeTeX? This is an adaptation of TeX that adds Unicode support, and is included in the latest TeX Live and MiKTeX distributions. This Wikipedia article gives a good introduction.

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    Not only Unicode support (that was partially available as an ugly hack-job before) but proper modern font support as well. Very nice, but a pain to get working, at least here :-) – Joey Jul 25 '11 at 12:48
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    Can you post a minimal example of using xetex that illustrates what you mean? At minimum, it seems you need to set the default font to something that covers the range of characters you want -- otherwise, characters not covered are simply (and silently!) ignored. – ShreevatsaR Jan 16 '12 at 5:54
  • 8
    Unlike the other answers, this doesn't seem to answer the question. – András Salamon Feb 27 '13 at 19:35
  • You need to add \usepackage{unicode-math}, see tex.stackexchange.com/a/394109/85164 – Anthony Ebert Apr 17 at 3:21
  • Then use \char" followed by the four digit Unicode value: stackoverflow.com/a/56707992/1458208 – ancestral Jun 21 at 17:26

"Unicode" in this context could mean either in the input or in the output. I assume you're looking to insert something like "©" into your source and have it do something meaningful.

For full support for unicode input and unicode fonts, take a look at XeTeX; it's easy to get started — just select an appropriate font and the unicode characters in your input are directly typeset as unicode glyphs in the output. Switching engines is not always a possibility, however, and sometimes you'll want to stick with pdfTeX for its other useful features.

The best that regular LaTeX (i.e., based from pdfTeX in a modern distribution) can do is recognise UTF-8 sequences in the text and expand macros based on what it sees. Load the inputenc package to select the UTF-8 input encoding:


Note that the resulting input file must not have a byte-order mark (BOM) at the beginning, or else it won't compile. (You can also use the [utf8x] option which has more extensive coverage but is not as well supported. I don't have any experience using this option.)

To define behaviour for unicode characters, use the \DeclareUnicodeCharacter command that is then defined. Here's an example for binding the control sequence \dash to the input character "—"; i.e., a literal em-dash, U+2014, in the source:


\dash can then be defined in the usual manner; I use:


This defines a dash that has a small space on either side and will only allow a line break after it.

  • 5
    \usepackage[utf8]{inputenc} worked for me, cheers – Grzenio Mar 21 '09 at 15:50
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    Doesn't work for me. \DeclareUnicodeCharacter has no effect, whether it's in or not, the \dash command works. OTOH, if \DeclareRobustCommand is missing, \dash doesn't work. And where does the Unicode character enter anyways? \DeclareRobustCommand uses \textemdash. (Of course this works in a way for the dash, but I tried to transfer it to another Unicode character, U+2318, the "twiddle" known from the Apple command key.) – Jann Nov 19 '09 at 9:04
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    I suggest creating a minimal example and asking a new question. – Will Robertson Nov 19 '09 at 13:24
  • Note though that in practice there seem to be no constraints against line breaks either before or after an (em-/en-)dash used for parenthetical purposes. See my now updated answer to this question about hyphens and dashes. – Lover of Structure Jul 24 '12 at 19:42
  • @user14996 I'm fairly sure this is discussed in the TeXbook, and I have no problem consulting Knuth as an authority in this area. Happy to concede that most publications don't do it though — possibly due to the software they use. – Will Robertson Jul 26 '12 at 3:03

This is a minimal example that finally worked for me without using XeTeX:


    The vorticity $ω$ is defined as $ω = ∇ × u$.
  • 1
    Thanks Roberto, this is a nice trick when you are bound to use no XeTeX. E.g. with texi2dvi which I used in R I did not know how to switch the engine. I had to reprogram my rendering functions if it wasn't for your hint here, mathletters did the trick, YAY! – hans0l0 Nov 23 '12 at 18:44
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    Also works for pdflatex – Alec Jacobson Aug 27 '13 at 11:58
  • Not great to use utf8x. I have an MWE for xelatex, but I can't publish it, unfortunately. Let me know if you want me to "ask the right questions" that might prompt the right answers for you. – user152148 Jan 23 at 2:19
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    This is a great solution! For those who oppose this solution, I would like to know better what exactly can go wrong with utf8x. Even if I was willing to use "better" compilers, I really need backward compatibility to be 100% sure that my co-authors will be able to compile my files, so yes I'll be using good old pdflatex for a long time – user4929 Apr 22 at 1:33

Try \char"hexcode like \char"2012 for the ‒ (figure-dash). This command works in XeLaTeX and probably other engines

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    Welcome to Stack Overflow! This will only work in certain TeX engines, especially the unicode-capable ones (XeTeX, LuaTeX). Could you add to your answer in which engine your example worked? – Paŭlo Ebermann Nov 12 '11 at 18:19
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    and how to insert a hexidecimal? – Малъ Скрылевъ Jan 30 '15 at 13:32
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    Thank you. I have been searching for hours, only to be misdirected to things that don't work. This is the first solution that works at least for XeLaTeX. It is kind of shocking, really, that there is NO standard way to simply specify a unicode codepoint in a document and have it work everywhere. – AgilePro Apr 5 '15 at 23:04

In order to use XeLaTeX (and even both pdflatex and xelatex on the same document), you can use the simple unixode package:


    The vorticity $ω$ is defined as $ω = ∇ × u$.

You may then compile your document either with pdflatex or with xelatex.

Note: the package is in development; the aim is to support as many unicode equivalents as possible.

  • Looking at the code, it only supports Unicode math symbols. – Metamorphic Sep 6 '18 at 19:47

In case anyone is not satisfied with any of the answers: I just had the same problem and came up with my own little solution. I didn't want to dig into another distribution but stay with pdflatex. So I created a textfield in inkscape, put the character in, cropped it, and saved as pdf. You can include the pdf in your document like this:

  • Welcome to TeX.SE! Yes the solution of using an image has been mentioned a few times on this site recently (e.g. at this question), but it hasn't been mentioned at this question from 2008 so I've upvoted your answer. Of course, this would be a highly impractical solution in other cases, such as when one has a large number of Unicode characters one wants to enter. – ShreevatsaR May 16 '17 at 21:29
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    Problem is that images can't be text-searched. – user152148 Jan 23 at 2:21
  • Odds are, when you trying to include non ASCII characters, people don’t want to search for them. In my case it was the “airplane” character. Of course, I don’t know how popular Tex is in non ASCII-languages. – Moritz H. Jan 24 at 7:17

As of today, both XeTeX and LuaTeX will let you input unicode without complaining.

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    Whether it "complains" depends on HOW you enter it. You need to be specific on exactly what you mean by "will let you input". – AgilePro Apr 5 '15 at 21:13
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    @ℝaphink Could you show an example on how you would input unicode in LuaLaTeX ? – SDrolet Mar 30 '18 at 19:46

Sorry, I'm not an expert on this, but hope I can at least provide some useful leads.

A lot of the early multi-lingual support for LaTeX predates the widespread adoption of Unicode, although it looks like there's been some consolidation around Unicode recently. So you might find something useful in specific language support packages, e.g. CJK LaTeX (for Chinese, Japanese and Korean).

Another Unicode package for LaTeX has a new name (formerly unicode; now ucs). For a list of Unicode packages, see https://ctan.org/topic/unicode .

You might also have a look at the excellent book The LaTeX Companion, which includes a section on multilingual text.

  • 1
    unicode.sty was renamed ucs.sty, and the old name was kept as an alias. ucs.sty acquired a new maintainer, and it was decided that the alias would be dropped. – wasteofspace Aug 31 '12 at 8:29

This question is really ambiguous, and I believe the answers are to the wrong interpretation. To have LaTeX handle Unicode is what is being answered, what I understand is being asked is how to enter such characters into the file. And that depends on the editor used... I've even copy&pasted some from Wikipedia pages into xemacs to go around that. The methods given in the Unicode FAQ clash with xemacs definitions or get interpreted at random by gnome-terminal :-(

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