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The following should make it possible to enter accented/marked characters directly from the keyboard, rather than having to look them up in a character map:

  1. In your desktop manager's control panel, there should be a "keyboard preferences" control - open that.
  2. Somewhere in there should be a "keyboard layout" section, probably a tab. Go there.
  3. You'll want to find where to set the "compose key". In MATE, this is reached via the "Options..." button.
  4. Set the "compose key" to be whatever key works best for you. (I use the left [Windows icon] key.)
  5. Save changes.
  6. You should be able to enter accented characters by pressing [compose] followed by a key-pair, e.g. [compose][e]['] = é

I should put together a guide for the less-obvious diacritics... e.g. you'd think ü would be [compose][u][:], but actually it's [compose][u]["].