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21.8.3 Modifying and Translating Input Events

Emacs modifies every event it reads according to extra-keyboard-modifiers, then translates it through keyboard-translate-table (if applicable), before returning it from read-event.

— Variable: extra-keyboard-modifiers

This variable lets Lisp programs “press” the modifier keys on the keyboard. The value is a character. Only the modifiers of the character matter. Each time the user types a keyboard key, it is altered as if those modifier keys were held down. For instance, if you bind extra-keyboard-modifiers to ?\C-\M-a, then all keyboard input characters typed during the scope of the binding will have the control and meta modifiers applied to them. The character ?\C-@, equivalent to the integer 0, does not count as a control character for this purpose, but as a character with no modifiers. Thus, setting extra-keyboard-modifiers to zero cancels any modification.

When using a window system, the program can “press” any of the modifier keys in this way. Otherwise, only the <CTL> and <META> keys can be virtually pressed.

Note that this variable applies only to events that really come from the keyboard, and has no effect on mouse events or any other events.

— Variable: keyboard-translate-table

This terminal-local variable is the translate table for keyboard characters. It lets you reshuffle the keys on the keyboard without changing any command bindings. Its value is normally a char-table, or else nil. (It can also be a string or vector, but this is considered obsolete.)

If keyboard-translate-table is a char-table (see Char-Tables), then each character read from the keyboard is looked up in this char-table. If the value found there is non-nil, then it is used instead of the actual input character.

Note that this translation is the first thing that happens to a character after it is read from the terminal. Record-keeping features such as recent-keys and dribble files record the characters after translation.

Note also that this translation is done before the characters are supplied to input methods (see Input Methods). Use translation-table-for-input (see Translation of Characters), if you want to translate characters after input methods operate.

— Function: keyboard-translate from to

This function modifies keyboard-translate-table to translate character code from into character code to. It creates the keyboard translate table if necessary.

Here's an example of using the keyboard-translate-table to make C-x, C-c and C-v perform the cut, copy and paste operations:

     (keyboard-translate ?\C-x 'control-x)
     (keyboard-translate ?\C-c 'control-c)
     (keyboard-translate ?\C-v 'control-v)
     (global-set-key [control-x] 'kill-region)
     (global-set-key [control-c] 'kill-ring-save)
     (global-set-key [control-v] 'yank)

On a graphical terminal that supports extended ASCII input, you can still get the standard Emacs meanings of one of those characters by typing it with the shift key. That makes it a different character as far as keyboard translation is concerned, but it has the same usual meaning.

See Translation Keymaps, for mechanisms that translate event sequences at the level of read-key-sequence.