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8.6 Keyboard Layout

To specify what each key of your keyboard does, you need to tell the operating system what keyboard layout you want to use. The default, when nothing is specified, is the US English QWERTY layout for 105-key PC keyboards. However, German speakers will usually prefer the German QWERTZ layout, French speakers will want the AZERTY layout, and so on; hackers might prefer Dvorak or bépo, and they might even want to further customize the effect of some of the keys. This section explains how to get that done.

There are three components that will want to know about your keyboard layout:

Guix allows you to configure all three separately but, fortunately, it allows you to share the same keyboard layout for all three components.

Keyboard layouts are represented by records created by the keyboard-layout procedure of (gnu system keyboard). Following the X Keyboard extension (XKB), each layout has four attributes: a name (often a language code such as “fi” for Finnish or “jp” for Japanese), an optional variant name, an optional keyboard model name, and a possibly empty list of additional options. In most cases the layout name is all you care about. Here are a few example:

;; The German QWERTZ layout.  Here we assume a standard
;; "pc105" keyboard model.
(keyboard-layout "de")

;; The bépo variant of the French layout.
(keyboard-layout "fr" "bepo")

;; The Catalan layout.
(keyboard-layout "es" "cat")

;; The Latin American Spanish layout.  In addition, the
;; "Caps Lock" key is used as an additional "Ctrl" key,
;; and the "Menu" key is used as a "Compose" key to enter
;; accented letters.
(keyboard-layout "latam"
                 #:options '("ctrl:nocaps" "compose:menu"))

;; The Russian layout for a ThinkPad keyboard.
(keyboard-layout "ru" #:model "thinkpad")

;; The "US international" layout, which is the US layout plus
;; dead keys to enter accented characters.  This is for an
;; Apple MacBook keyboard.
(keyboard-layout "us" "intl" #:model "macbook78")

See the share/X11/xkb directory of the xkeyboard-config package for a complete list of supported layouts, variants, and models.

Let’s say you want your system to use the Turkish keyboard layout throughout your system—bootloader, console, and Xorg. Here’s what your system configuration would look like:

;; Using the Turkish layout for the bootloader, the console,
;; and for Xorg.

  ;; ...
  (keyboard-layout (keyboard-layout "tr"))  ;for the console
  (bootloader (bootloader-configuration
                (bootloader grub-efi-bootloader)
                (target "/boot/efi")
                (keyboard-layout keyboard-layout))) ;for GRUB
  (services (cons (set-xorg-configuration
                    (xorg-configuration             ;for Xorg
                      (keyboard-layout keyboard-layout)))

In the example above, for GRUB and for Xorg, we just refer to the keyboard-layout field defined above, but we could just as well refer to a different layout. The set-xorg-configuration procedure communicates the desired Xorg configuration to the graphical log-in manager, by default GDM.

We’ve discussed how to specify the default keyboard layout of your system when it starts, but you can also adjust it at run time:

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