The Euro symbol on FreeBSD

$FreeBSD: doc/en_US.ISO8859-1/articles/euro/article.sgml,v 1.11 2005/08/18 07:53:23 pav Exp $

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This document will try to help you in getting started with the new Euro Symbol on your new keyboard that you had to buy in early 2002 because of the switch to the new common currency. We will first focus on the more important parts like being able to correctly display the symbol on the console. Later sections will deal with configuring particular programs like X11.

Lots of helpful input came from Oliver Fromme, Tom Rhodes and countless others. Thanks! Without you this article would not have been possible!

1 The Euro in a nutshell

If you already feel comfortable with localization as described in the FreeBSD Handbook you might be only interested in the following facts which will get you started quickly:


This is a slight modification of the commonly used ISO8859-1 character map. It includes the Euro symbol. Used for the LANG, LC_CTYPE environment variables.


The vidcontrol(1) font for the console


Appropriate keyboard maps depending on your language. Set your keymap entry in rc.conf to one of these.


Used to specify the correct character type in your locale.

XkbLayout "lang(euro)"

XFree86 config option.


Be sure to adapt your X11 fonts to -*-..-*-iso8859-15

2 A general remark

In the following sections we will often refer to ISO8859-15. This is the standard notation starting with FreeBSD 4.5. In older versions, the standard notation was either ISO_8859-15 or DIS_8859-15.

If you are using an older version of FreeBSD, be sure to take a look at /usr/share/locale/ in order to find out which naming convention is in place.

3 The console

3.1 Setting up your console font

Depending on your console resolution and size you will need one of the following lines in rc.conf:

font8x16="iso15-8x16.fnt" # from /usr/share/syscons/fonts/* 

This will effectively select the ISO8859-15 also known as Latin-9 font. ISO8859-15 is a variation of ISO8859-1. You can tell the difference between the two by looking at the Euro symbol: its decimal value is 164. In ISO8859-1 you will notice a circle with four little strokes at the corners. This is often termed the “universal currency symbol”. In ISO8859-15, instead of the little circle, you have the Euro Symbol. Otherwise the fonts are more or less identical.

Warning: As of the time of this writing the only usable font seems to be iso15-8x16.fnt. The others seem to only show ISO8859-1 even though the name suggest otherwise.

Note: By specifying this font some console applications will look garbled. This is due to the fact that they assume you are using a different font/character set such as ANSI 850. One notable example is sysinstall. However most of the time this should not be of much concern.

As the next step you should either reboot your system to let the changes take effect or (manually) take the steps that would have been taken at the system startup:

% vidcontrol -f iso15-8x16.fnt

To check if the font has been selected execute the following short awk script:

#!/usr/bin/awk -f
                printf"%3d %c\n",i,i

The result should reveal the Euro sign at position 164.

3.2 Setting up your keyboard for the Euro

Most keyboard maps should already be set up correctly. I.e: If you have a german keyboard and your Umlaut keys are working, you can safely skip this section since the keyboard already maps whatever key combination is necessary (e.g.: Alt Gr+e) to decimal value 164. If running into problems, the best way to check is to take a look at /usr/share/syscons/keymaps/*.kbd. The format of the key mapping files is described in keyboard(4). kbdcontrol(1) can be used to load a custom keymap.

Once the correct keyboard map is selected, it should be added to /etc/rc.conf with the line:

keymap="german.iso" # or another map

As stated above, this step has most probably already been taken by you at installation time (with sysinstall). If not, either reboot or load the new keymap via kbdcontrol(1).

To verify the keyboard mapping, switch to a new console and at the login prompt, instead of logging in, try to type the Euro key. If it is not working, either file a bug report via send-pr(1) or make sure you in fact chose the right keyboard map.

Note: At this stage the Euro key will not yet work in bash or tcsh.

3.3 Fixing the environment variables

The shells (bash, tcsh) revert to the readline(3) library which in turn respects the LC_CTYPE environment variable. LC_CTYPE must be set before the shell is completely running. Luckily it suffices to add the line:

export LC_CTYPE=de_DE.ISO8859-15

to your .bash_profile (bash), or:

setenv LC_CTYPE de_DE.ISO8859-15

to your .login (tcsh) file. Of course, de_DE should be replaced by your language. Next, log out, log back in again, and verify your Euro key is working. By now most console applications should respond to the Euro key. Extra configuration steps for special programs like pine might still be necessary however.

Note: An alternative to modifying .login and .bash_profile is to set the environment variables through the login.conf(5) mechanism. This approach has the advantage of assigning login classes to certain users (e.g. French users, Italian users, etc) in one place.

4 Modifying X11

Modify /etc/X11/xorg.conf (/etc/X11/XF86Config if you're running XFree86™) in the following manner:

Option "XkbLayout"  "de(euro)"

Again, replace de with your language. By now, the keyboard should be set up correctly. As in the console section, the correct font must be chosen. For KDE, go to the KDE control center -> Personalization -> Country & Language -> Charset and change it to ISO8859-15. Similar steps apply to kmail and other applications.

Another good idea is to modify your fonts.alias files. Notably the fixed font should be changed to the right character set: The author's /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/misc/fonts.alias looks like this:

! $Xorg: fonts.alias,v 1.3 2000/08/21 16:42:31 coskrey Exp $
fixed   -misc-fixed-medium-r-semicondensed--13-120-75-75-c-60-iso8859-15
variable -*-helvetica-bold-r-normal-*-*-120-*-*-*-*-iso8859-15

As in the console sections, special applications still have ISO8859-1 fonts configured in their respective xrdb(1) databases. One notable example is xterm. As a general rule of thumb it suffices to change the corresponding configuration file in /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/app-defaults and add the correct font. Let us demonstrate this with xterm.

# cd /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/app-defaults/
# vi XTerm

Add the following line to the beginning of the file:

*font:     -misc-fixed-medium-r-normal-*-*-120-*-*-c-*-iso8859-15

Finally, restart X and make sure, fonts can be displayed by executing the above awk script. All major applications should respect the keyboard mapping and the font settings.

5 Open problems

Of course, the author would like to receive feedback. In addition, at least let me know if you have fixes for one of these open problems:

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