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The XKB Configuration Guide
Kamil Toman, Ivan U. Pascal
25 November 2002
This document describes how to configure XFree86 XKB from a user's
point a few. It converts basic configuration syntax and gives also
a few examples.
1. Overview
The XKB configuration is decomposed into a number of components. Selecting
proper parts and combining them back you can achieve most of configurations
you might need. Unless you have a completely atypical keyboard you really
don't need to touch any of xkb configuration files.
2. Selecting XKB Configuration
The easiest and the most natural way how to specify a keyboard mapping is tu
use rules component. As its name suggests it describes a number of general
rules how to combine all bits and pieces into a valid and useful keyboard
mapping. All you need to do is to select a suitable rules file and then to
feed it with a few parameters that will adjust the keyboard behaviour to ful-
fill your needs.
The parameters are:
o XkbRules - files of rules to be used for keyboard mapping composition
o XkbModel - name of model of your keyboard type
o XkbLayout - layout(s) you intend to use
o XkbVariant - variant(s) of layout you intend to use
o XkbOptions - extra xkb configuration options
The proper rules file depends on your vendor. In reality, the commonest file
of rules is xfree86. For each rules file there is a description file named
<vendor-rules>.lst, for instance xfree86.lst which is located in xkb configu-
ration subdirectory rules (for example /etc/X11/xkb/rules).
2.1 Basic Configuration
Let's say you want to configure a PC style America keyboard with 104 keys as
described in xfree86.lst. It can be done by simply writing several lines from
below to you XFree86 configuration file (often found as /etc/X11/XF86Config-4
or /etc/X11/XF86Config):
Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Keyboard1"
Driver "Keyboard"
Option "XkbModel" "pc104"
Option "XkbLayout" "us"
Option "XKbOptions" ""
The values of parameters XkbModel and XkbLayout are really not surprising.
The parameters XkbOptions has been explicitly set to empty set of parameters.
The parameter XkbVariant has been left out. That means the default variant
named basic is loaded.
Of course, this can be also done at runtime using utility setxkbmap. Shell
command loading the same keyboard mapping would look like:
setxkbmap -rules xfree86 -model pc104 -layout us -option ""
The configuration and the shell command would be very analogical for most
other layouts (internationalized mappings).
2.2 Advanced Configuration
Since XFree86 4.3.x you can use multi-layouts xkb configuration. What does
it mean? Basically it allows to load up to four different keyboard layouts at
a time. Each such layout would reside in its own group. The groups (unlike
complete keyboard remapping) can be switched very fast from one to another by
a combination of keys.
Let's say you want to configure your new Logitech cordless desktop keyboard,
you intend to use three different layouts at the same time - us, czech and
german (in this order), and that you are used to Alt-Shift combination for
switching among them.
Then the configuration snippet could look like this:
Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Keyboard1"
Driver "Keyboard"
Option "XkbModel" "logicordless"
Option "XkbLayout" "us,cz,de"
Option "XKbOptions" "grp:alt_shift_toggle"
Of course, this can be also done at runtime using utility setxkbmap. Shell
command loading the same keyboard mapping would look like:
setxkmap -rules xfree86 -model logicordless -layout "us,cz,de" \
-option "grp:alt_shift_toggle"
2.3 Even More Advanced Configuration
Okay, let's say you are more demanding. You do like the example above but you
want it to change a bit. Let's imagine you want the czech keyboard mapping to
use another variant but basic. The configuration snippet then changes into:
Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Keyboard1"
Driver "Keyboard"
Option "XkbModel" "logicordless"
Option "XkbLayout" "us,cz,de"
Option "XkbVariant" ",bksl,"
Option "XKbOptions" "grp:alt_shift_toggle"
That's seems tricky but it is not. The logic for settings of variants is the
same as for layouts, that means the first and the third variant settings are
left out (set to basic), the second is set to bksl (a special variant with an
enhanced definition of the backslash key).
Analogically, the loading runtime will change to:
setxkmap -rules xfree86 -model logicordless -layout "us,cz,de" \
-variant ",bksl," -option "grp:alt_shift_toggle"
2.4 Basic Global Options
See rules/*.lst files.
3. Direct XKB Configuration
Generally, you can directly prescribe what configuration of each of basic xkb
components should be used to form the resulting keyboard mapping. This
method is rather "brute force". You precisely need to know the structure and
the meaning of all of used configuration components.
This method also exposes all xkb configuration details directly into XFree86
configuration file which is a not very fortunate fact. In rare occasions it
may be needed, though. So how does it work?
3.1 Basic Components
There are five basic components used to form a keyboard mapping:
o key codes - a translation of the scan codes produced by the keyboard
into a suitable symbolic form
o types - a specification of what various combinations of modifiers pro-
o key symbols - a translation of symbolic key codes into actual symbols
o geometry - a description of physical keyboard geometry
o compatibility maps - a specification of what action should each key pro-
duce in order to preserve compatibility with XKB-unware clients
3.2 Example Configuration
Look at the following example:
Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Keyboard0"
Driver "Keyboard"
Option "XkbKeycodes" "xfree86"
Option "XkbTypes" "default"
Option "XkbSymbols" "en_US(pc104)+de+swapcaps"
Option "XkbGeometry" "pc(pc104)"
Option "XkbCompat" "basic+pc+iso9995"
This configuration sets the standard XFree86 default interpretation of key-
board keycodes, sets the default modificator types. The symbol table is com-
posed of extended US keyboard layout in its variant for pc keyboards with 104
keys plus all keys for german layout are redefined respectively. Also the
logical meaning of Caps-lock and Control keys is swapped. The standard key-
board geometry (physical look) is set to pc style keyboard with 104 keys. The
compatibility map is set to allow basic shifting, to allow Alt keys to be
interpreted and also to allow iso9995 group shifting.
4. Keymap XKB Configuration
It is the formerly used way to configure xkb. The user included a special
keymap file which specified the direct xkb configuration. This method has
been obsoleted by previously described rules files which are far more flexi-
ble and allow simpler and more intuitive syntax. It is preserved merely for
compatibility reasons. Avoid using it if it is possible.
Generated from XFree86: xc/programs/Xserver/hw/xfree86/doc/sgml/XKB-Config.sgml,v 1.2 2003/02/25 19:31:02 dawes Exp $
$XFree86: xc/programs/xkbcomp/README.config,v 1.3 2003/02/25 21:32:33 dawes Exp $
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/* $XFree86: xc/programs/xkbcomp/compat.h,v 1.1 2002/06/05 00:00:37 dawes Exp $ */
#ifndef COMPAT_H
#define COMPAT_H 1
extern LookupEntry groupNames[];
#endif /* COMPAT_H */
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