Extra keyboard keys in Xorg

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When we are in a graphical environment we may want a key to print a special character or execute a command. There are some ways of doing that and they are covered in this HOWTO.

Note: This article assumes that your keys already have keycodes and that you know these codes, if not, see the Extra Keyboard Keys article where it is explained.

Map keycodes to actions

Merge-arrows-2.pngThis article or section is a candidate for merging with Keyboard Shortcuts#X11_2.Merge-arrows-2.png

Notes: same topic (Discuss in Talk:Extra keyboard keys in Xorg#)

Tango-inaccurate.pngThe factual accuracy of this article or section is disputed.Tango-inaccurate.png

Reason: keycodes are mapped to keysyms and then keysyms can be mapped to actions (Discuss in Talk:Extra keyboard keys in Xorg#)

There are multiple ways to do that:

  • The most portable way using low level tools, such as acpid. Not all keys are supported, but configuration in uniform way is possible for keyboard keys, power adapter connection and even headphone jack (un)plugging events.
  • The universal way using Xorg utilities (e.g. Xbindkeys) and eventually your desktop environment or window manager tools.
  • The quicker way using a third-party program to do everything in GUI, such as the Gnome Control Center or Keytouch.

Using your Desktop Environment tools

Gnome

Gnome Control Center is quite complete for the extra keyboard keys management. In fact it can directly detect scancodes which means that it can map any key seen by the kernel.

KDE

Keyboard shortcuts can be configured in System Settings -> Shortcuts and Gestures.

Xfce4

You can change the keyboard shortcuts in Keyboard Settings, which can be run using xfce4-keyboard-settings.

Openbox

You can set keyboard shortcuts and actions in the keyboard section of your ~/.config/openbox/rc.xml file. For example, the following will lower the volume with a media key:

<keybind key="XF86AudioLowerVolume">
  <action name="Execute">
    <execute>amixer set Master 5- unmute</execute>
  </action>
</keybind>

For more information, please visit urukrama's Openbox Guide or the Openbox Wiki.

You can use obkey utility from AUR for easy configuration.

PekWM

Setting keys in PekWM is accomplished by editing your ~/.pekwm/keys file. For example, adding the following at the bottom of the Global section will lower the volume with a media key:

KeyPress = "XF86AudioLowerVolume" { Actions = "exec amixer set Master 5%- unmute &" }

Xmonad

If you use Xmonad as a stand alone window manager, you can edit the xmonad.hs to add unbound keyboard keys. You just need to find the Xf86 name of the key (such as XF86PowerDown) and look it up in /usr/include/X11/XF86keysym.h. It will give you a keycode (like 0x1008FF2A) which you can use to add a line like the following in the keybindings section of your xmonad.hs:

((0,               0x1008FF2A), spawn "sudo pm-suspend")

i3

Open your ~/.i3/config and just bind the key (keysym or keycode) to a command:

bindsym XF86MonBrightnessDown  exec  xbacklight -dec 10
bindsym Print                  exec  scrot

Using third-party programs

sxhkd

A simple X hotkey daemon with a powerful and compact configuration syntax.

Available as sxhkd-gitAUR and sxhkdAUR in AUR.

keytouch

KeyTouch is a program which allows you to easily configure the extra function keys of your keyboard. This means that you can define, for every individual function key, what to do if it is pressed.

See the detailed article: keytouch.

actkbd

From actkbd home page:

actkbd (available in AUR) is a simple daemon that binds actions to keyboard events. It recognises key combinations and can handle press, repeat and release events. Currently it only supports the linux-2.6 evdev interface. It uses a plain-text configuration file which contains all the bindings.

A sample configuration and guide is available here.

xbindkeys

xbindkeys (available in the extra repository) allows advanced mapping of keycodes to actions independently of the Desktop Environment.

A GUI called xbindkeys_configAUR is available in AUR.