How to Remap/Reassign Keyboard Keys in Ubuntu

Yellow and white computer keyboard
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Yellow and white computer keyboard

Key remapping is a powerful customization feature that allows users to redefine the functionality of keys on their keyboards. Whether you want to swap specific keys, assign new functions, or enhance your productivity, Ubuntu provides versatile tools for achieving key remapping. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore two commonly used methods: xmodmap and setxkbmap.

Understanding Key Remapping

Before diving into the remapping process, it’s essential to understand the difference between keycodes and keysyms. Keycodes represent physical keys on your keyboard, while keysyms are symbolic names associated with those keys. In the remapping process, we will be working with keycodes.

Identifying Keycodes

To remap keys, we first need to identify the keycodes of the keys we want to modify. Open a terminal and use the xev command:

xev | grep keycode

Press the keys you want to remap and note their keycodes.

Using xmodmap for Key Remapping

Step 1: Creating the Configuration File

Create a file for your remapping configurations:

touch ~/.Xmodmap
Step 2: Editing the Configuration File

Open the file in a text editor:

gedit ~/.Xmodmap
Step 3: Adding Remapping Configurations

Add lines to swap or remap keys. For example, to swap the ‘Home’ and ‘End’ keys:

keycode 110 = End NoSymbol End NoSymbol End End
keycode 115 = Home NoSymbol Home NoSymbol Home Home

Replace keycodes and modify configurations based on your needs.

Step 4: Applying Changes

Run the following command in the terminal:

xmodmap ~/.Xmodmap
Step 5: Making Changes Persistent

To ensure changes are applied after each reboot, add the previous xmodmap command to your startup applications.

Using setxkbmap for Key Remapping

Step 1: Identifying Current Layout

Check your current keyboard layout:

setxkbmap -query
Step 2: Creating a Custom Layout

Create a custom layout (e.g., custom-layout):

setxkbmap -layout us -variant custom-layout -option ctrl:nocaps
Step 3: Making Changes Persistent

Add the setxkbmap command to your startup applications or user configuration files.

Best Practices and Considerations

  • Backup: Before making significant changes, back up your current configurations to avoid unintended issues.
  • Testing: Test your remapped keys to ensure they function as expected before making changes persistent.
  • Documentation: Keep a record of your remapping configurations for future reference.

Key remapping in Ubuntu provides users with a flexible way to tailor their keyboard layouts to suit personal preferences and workflows. Whether using xmodmap for its simplicity or setxkbmap for its versatility, the process empowers users to create a more ergonomic and efficient computing experience.

By following this comprehensive guide, you can confidently navigate the key remapping process on Ubuntu and unlock the full potential of your keyboard customization.