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My Custom Keyboard Layout

Content

  1. Introduction
  2. Preliminary Thoughts
  3. First Layout
  4. Second Layout
  5. The Implementation
  6. Download
  7. Thanks to…

1. Introduction

When did you use “Ŋ” for the last time? On a german keyboard, you can access this character using AltGr+g. There are tons of other characters one rarely uses, at least when communicating in English and German and not some strange variant which requires stroked “l”s or “T”s (ł and Ŧ, btw). On the other hand, commonly used character such as { and } are put where they're really difficult to access – you have to press AltGr+7 or 0. The former requires two hands (at least on the Thinkpad x300), trying the latter you wish your hands were smaller. $ is another such char which every programmer and user of LaTeX regularly uses but at least I often hit the 3 instead of the 4, resulting in § instead of $.

2. Preliminary Thoughts

I'm quite used to the standard QWERTZ-layout which I therefor tried to conserve. Additionally, often used punctuation marks should remain at the same position, since I don't want to think about the keyboard layout when typing in a password (therefor, you'll rarely find z and y in my passwords, either).

OTOH, I wanted to move a few special keys to better positions (such as $, {, }, [ and ], as noted above) and I also wanted to have some (actually, nearly all) greek characters at hand as well. This made up for about 75% of the keys filled, which left me with quite some space to add exotic chars (I actually use) like ∇ (nabla, used for the gradient), ∀ (quantor, “for all”), ∃ (quantor, “exists”), ⇔ (“equivalent to”) etc.

3. First Layout

I didn't care much about how to get the layout into the computer but started with a first draft using a pencil and the printed-out image of a 104-keys keyboard. I quickly abandoned that and printed out another, 105-keys keyboard which then was filled with characters:

A keyboard layout, mostly like the standard QWERTZ-layout

4. Second Layout

As you can see above, there were still some blanks left to be filled in, and after some consideration, I did so:

A keyboard layout like the above but with extra characters

5. The Implementation (Debian GNU/Linux 7.0)

For a complete layout both in the virtual terminals (‘Ctrl-Alt-F?’) and X, you need two layouts. One .kmap file in /etc/console-setup referenced by /etc/default/keyboard and an .xkb file, apparently in /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/ (/etc/X11/xkb/symbols/ didn’t work for me). Note that in this directory, files usually don’t have the .xkb suffix, so you might want to get rid off it there (I did). Even though the file can then be easily found by setxkbmap, it is still invisible to the ‘graphical’ frontends (gnome-keyboard-properties, xfce4-keyboard-settings etc.). I was too lazy to investigate this further, as these settings in /etc/default/keyboard worked fine for me:

KMAP=/etc/console-setup/claudius.kmap
XKBMODEL="pc105"
XKBLAYOUT="claudius"
XKBOPTIONS="lv3:ralt_switch"
BACKSPACE="guess"

6. Download

Three files are available: kbl_claudius.kmap and kbl_claudius.xkb for Linux (console and X11) as well ass kbl_claudius.keylayout for MacOS X (don’t judge me!). Have fun!

7. Thanks to…

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