LF Tip: solving the ugly key problem



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original in en Guido Socher

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Guido really likes it when a computer is tailored to his needs and looks like he wants it. That's why he is using Linux.


This is a small tip. From now on LinuxFocus will have at least one new tip every month. If you have some ideas for a new tip then send them to guido("at" sign)linuxfocus.org


penguin key



You have one of the finest operating systems running on you computer and you are pleased with the setup of your desktop. Proud and happy as you are you look at your computer. You look down to the keyboard and what are those ugly keys in the lower row of your keyboard? Win-keys??!

Even though you might not be using those keys it is still annoying and stressful to see them. How can we replace them by penguin keys?

This short tip presents two solutions for this problem.

Solution 1: a new keyboard

cherry linux keyboard The German keyboard manufacture Cherry has announced last year that it will produce linux keyboards (see this announcement on news.zdnet.co.uk).

Searching the Cherry website you will actually find two nice linux keyboards:

Solution 2: stick new labels onto the ugly keys

linux keyboard shop.tuxgraphics.org sells a set of stickers which fit exactly onto these keys. The sticker sheet you need is "tux sticker V6".

These stickers are different from normal glossy stickers in such a way that the paint will not rub off even if you use the keys frequently.

Especially my daughter really likes my keyboard now. When she comes to the computer she says "tux" with a big smile on here face and points to the key.

Using the keys

Using the xev program you can check which key-codes are assigned to those two penguin keys. In my case it is keycode 115 and 116. Using the command xmodmap you can assign some function to the keys (you could even put letters onto them. E.g Eurosign):
xmodmap -e 'keycode 115 = Super_L'
xmodmap -e 'keycode 116 = Super_R'
xmodmap -e 'keycode 115 = EuroSign cent'
How to assign some window action to those keys depends on your window management system. In gnome you would e.g use "gnome-control-center->Keyboard Shortcuts" to assign those keys. In xfce and fvwm you would edit the configuration file. Note however that you can not use the key mapping to Super_L and Super_R if you want some action when only pressing this key with no other key in combination. This is because Super_L and Super_R are modifier keys like Ctrl or Shift. In that case map them to some other symbol which is not used. (see also /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/xkb/symbols, e.g symbol SunOpen).


Life is much more enjoyable with some cute penguin keys and no Windows keys :-).