Keyboard configuration in console

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Note: This article covers only basic configuration without modifying layouts, mapping extra keys etc. See Extra keyboard keys for these advanced topics.

Keyboard mappings (keymaps) for virtual console, console fonts and console maps are provided by the kbd package (a dependency of systemd), which also provides many low-level tools for managing virtual console. In addition, systemd also provides the localectl tool, which can control both the system locale and keyboard layout settings for both the virtual console and Xorg.

Viewing keyboard settings

Use localectl status to view the current keyboard configurations.

Setting keyboard layout

Keymap codes

Usually one keymap file corresponds to one keyboard layout (the include statement can be used to share common parts and a keymap file can contain multiple layouts with some key combination used for switching). The keymap files are stored in the /usr/share/kbd/keymaps/ directory tree.

The naming conventions of console keymaps are somewhat arbitrary, but usually they are based on:

For a list of all the available keymaps, use the command:

$ localectl list-keymaps

To search for a keymap, use the following command, replacing search_term with the code for your language, country, or layout:

$ localectl list-keymaps | grep -i search_term

Alternatively, using find:

$ find /usr/share/kbd/keymaps/ -type f

Persistent configuration

A persistent keymap can be set in /etc/vconsole.conf, which is read by systemd on start-up. The KEYMAP variable is used for specifying the keymap. If the variable is empty or not set, the us keymap is used as default value. See man 5 vconsole.conf for all options. For example:

/etc/vconsole.conf
KEYMAP=uk
...

For convenience, localectl may be used to set console keymap. It will change the KEYMAP variable in /etc/vconsole.conf and also set the keymap for current session:

$ localectl set-keymap --no-convert keymap

The --no-convert option can be used to prevent localectl from automatically changing the Xorg keymap to the nearest match. See man localectl for more information.

Temporary configuration

It is possible to set a keymap just for current session. This is useful for testing different keymaps, solving problems etc.

The loadkeys tool is used for this purpose, it is used internally by systemd when loading the keymap configured in /etc/vconsole.conf. It can be used very simply for this purpose:

# loadkeys keymap

See man 1 loadkeys details.

Adjusting typematic delay and rate

The typematic delay indicates the amount of time (typically in miliseconds) a key needs to be pressed in order for the repeating process to begin. After the repeating process has been triggered, the character will be repeated with a certain frequency (usually given in Hz) specified by the typematic rate. These values can be changed using the kbdrate command. Note that the typematic delay in the virtual console is different from the typematic delay in Xorg.

# kbdrate [-d delay] [-r rate]

For example to set a typematic delay to 200ms and a typematic rate to 30Hz, use the following command:

# kbdrate -d 200 -r 30

Issuing the command without specifying the delay and rate will reset the typematic values to their respective defaults; a delay of 250ms and a rate of 11Hz:

# kbdrate

Systemd service

A systemd service can be used to set the keyboard rate. For example

/etc/systemd/system/kbdrate.service

[Unit]
Description=Keyboard repeat rate in tty.

[Service]
Type=simple
RemainAfterExit=yes
StandardInput=tty
StandardOutput=tty
ExecStart=/usr/bin/kbdrate -s -d 450 -r 60
 
[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target

Then start/enable the kbdrate.service systemd service.