How to add custom keyboard variant in Ubuntu 18.04

Recently I had to reinstall my Ubuntu and noticed I hadn’t documented how to setup my custom keyboard layout. It took some time to figure it out so I decided to document it here for posteriority. This should work on Ubuntu 18.04.

1. Customize your keyboard symbols

You should have a custom keyboard symbol definitions. In my case I wanted to replace the default Finnish symbols to add a new keyboard variant called sensible braces. So add a new variant to the default symbols file:

vim  /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/fi

partial alphanumeric_keys
xkb_symbols "sensiblebraces" {

    // Classic Finnish keyboard layout without dead keys and {[]} on asdf + AltGr

    include "fi(nodeadkeys)"

    name[Group1]="Finnish (classic, no dead keys, sensible braces)";

    key <AC01> { [  a,               A,                braceleft,             SCHWA                 ] };
    key <AC02> { [  s,               S,                bracketleft,           Scaron                ] };
    key <AC03> { [  d,               D,                bracketright,          ETH                   ] };
    key <AC04> { [  f,               F,                braceright,            F                     ] };

In my case I change the asdf to act as {[]} with Alt Gr as modifier. This setup makes those characters easier to reach on Scandinavian keyboards.

2. Add the new variant to the evdev.xml

To get your new variant to show up in the desktop’s keyboard selection GUI, you have to add the variant to the evdev.xml:

vim /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/evdev.xml

     <description>Finnish (classic, no dead keys, sensible braces)</description>

Make sure to add the variant inside the correct layout definition!

3. Select the new layout

Simply select the new layout from the GUI keyboard layout menu. If it does not appear, try logging out first.

Cover Photo by Shahadat Shemul on Unsplash



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