Unicode char \u8:χ not set up for use with LaTeX: Solution (made easy with Emacs)

For years I regularly stumbled over LaTeX-Errors in the form of Unicode char \u8:χ not set up for use with LaTeX. I always took the chickens path and replaced the unicode characters with the tex-escapes in the file. That was easy, but it made my files needlessly unreadable. Today I decided to FIX the problem once and for all. And it worked. Easily.

Firstoff: The problem I’m facing is that my keyboard layout makes it effortless for me to input characters like ℂ Σ and χ. But LaTeX cannot cope with them out-of-the-box. Org-mode already catches most of these problems, so I can write things like x² instead of x^2, but occasionally it stumbles.

The solution to that is actually pretty simple: I only need to declare the escapes-sequences LaTeX should use when it sees one of the characters (to be used before \begin{document}!):


Or in org-mode:

#+LaTeX_HEADER: \DeclareUnicodeCharacter{03C7}{\chi}

To do this more easily, you can use the uniinput.ins and uniinput.dtx from the neo-layout project. Run latex uniinput.ins to generate uniinput.sty which you can put next to your latex files and use with \usepackage{uniinput} (instructions in German).

Thanks go to Wikibooks:LaTeX for this. Their solution suggests then to read several Unicode definition documents for tracking down the codepoint of the character. But we can make that easier with Emacs (almost everything is easier with Emacs ☺).

Instead of browsing huge documents manually, we simply rely on the unicode-definitions in Emacs: Move the cursor over the char and execute M-x describe-char.

When used with χ, this shows the following output:

             position: 672 of 35513 (2%), column: 0
            character: χ (displayed as χ) (codepoint 967, #o1707, #x3c7)
    preferred charset: unicode-bmp (Unicode Basic Multilingual Plane (U+0000..U+FFFF))
code point in charset: 0x03C7
… (and a bit more) …

What we need is code point in charset: Just leave out the 0x and you have the codepoint.

For the document I currently write, I now use the following definitions:

#+LaTeX_HEADER: \DeclareUnicodeCharacter{03C7}{\chi}
#+LaTeX_HEADER: \DeclareUnicodeCharacter{B2}{^{2}}

And that makes χ² work.

Happy Hacking - and have fun with Emacs Org-Mode!

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