How to Change the Keyboard Layout in Linux

Change Keyboard Layout on Linux

When you spend any real length of time working on a computer, you learn that your preferences matter. Having your computer set up exactly as you like can make the difference between getting work done smoothly and dragging through something that’d otherwise be simple. Your keyboard and its layout are a major factor here, whether you’re writing, coding, or just relying on hotkeys.

Even though they all have their own ways of handling it, every Linux desktop environment makes it simple to customize your keyboard layout for your language, region, and personal preference.

GNOME/Budgie

GNOME Language Settings

Begin by opening your “Settings” application. Locate the “Language” tab in the list on the left side of the window and click it.

The window’s body will shift to display your current language settings. The two boxes at the top concern the actual system language. Below them you’ll see another section for “Input Sources.” Here is where you can change or add keyboard layouts.

GNOME Keyboard Layout List

Click the plus sign (+) directly below your current language. A new window will open and suggest some common options related to your current language choice. If you’re looking for something different, press the three dots at the bottom of the list. The choices will expand to display even more related options. If you still don’t see what you’re looking for, select “Other” at the bottom of the list to see everything else.

When you have your layout and language of choice, click to highlight it and press the “Add” button in the upper-right of the window.

KDE Plasma

Plasma Settings

Open the Plasma settings. Scroll down in the menu to the left of the window. Under the “Hardware” heading, locate “Input Devices” and click it.

Plasma Keyboard Settings

The window will shift to display the items under the “Input Devices” section. Make sure that “Keyboard” is the selected tab on the left, and turn your attention to the main body of the window. Locate and select the “Layouts” tab toward the top of the window, then check the “Configure layouts” box and unlock your keyboard layout options.

Plasma Set Keyboard Layout

Press the “Add” button to configure a new keyboard layout. Plasma will open a new window that will let you choose your language, layout, and variant. You can give your new entry a name and even assign a hotkey to switch easily to it. When you’re done, press “OK” to add your new keyboard layout.

XFCE

On XFCE you can find the keyboard layout settings under the keyboard settings application. You can either get there through the generic “Settings” app for XFCE, or you can go directly to “Keyboard” under the “Settings” section of your menu.

XFCE Keyboard Settings

When the window opens, select the “Layout” tab at the top. Everything will start grayed out. That’s because XFCE will use your system language by default. Uncheck the “Use system defaults” box to open up the controls.

To change your keyboard layout, either select your existing layout and “Edit” it with that button, or press the “Add” button for a new layout.

XFCE Select Keyboard Layout

A new smaller window will open, listing the available languages. If a language has available layout options, it’ll have a black arrow next to it. Click the arrow to display the options. Locate the language and layout you want, and press “OK” at the bottom of the window to add it.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon Settings

You can find your keyboard settings under Cinnamon’s “Settings” application. Scroll to the bottom, and find the “Hardware” section. There, you’ll see the “Keyboard” settings. Click on them.

Cinnamon Keyboard Layouts

The window will shift to display the available settings. Near the top of the window, locate the “Layouts” tab and select it.

Your window will switch again to display your current keyboard layout in a box to the left with available options on the right. To add a new keyboard layout, press the plus sign (+) at the bottom of the box on the left.

Cinnamon Select Keyboard Layout

Cinnamon will open a new window that lists all the available languages and layouts alphabetically. Locate yours or use the provided search to speed things up. Select your layout and press “Add.”

MATE

MATE Launch Keyboard Settings

Find your keyboard settings under the “Preferences” section of the MATE menu and launch it. When the application opens, select the “Layouts” tab at the top of the window.

MATE Keyboard Settings

The window will change to display your current keyboard layout and a few options, like keyboard model. Press the “Add” button to choose a new keyboard layout.

MATE Select Keyboard Layout

MATE will open a new window that displays a large keyboard graphic. At the top you’ll see the option to switch between searching by language or by country. The results are the same, so use whichever you’re more comfortable with. Select either your language or country. Then, find the exact layout that you prefer. As you select layouts, you’ll see the keyboard graphic change to reflect them. When you’re set, press “Add.”

As you can see, every major desktop environment makes it easy to add and manage your keyboard layout on Linux. Most Linux distributions are also very well internationalized, meaning there’s an excellent chance that you’ll find exactly the language and layout that you need.

2 comments

  1. Nice article, just way too basic for my needs. What i always need is to remap some keys and it would really be nice to have an application or desktop environment which could remap keys through a gui. This forces me always to write my own keyboard rules under /usr/share/X11/xkb which means they could get overwritten by an update.

    I use an Apple Aluminium Keyboard (not because of apple, i generally don’t like them, i just love flat style keyboards and this is one of the best i found). I remapped the eject key to F20 (cause which pc in 2019 would still have a cd drive?) and mapped this to toggle guake, a drop-down terminal. Then i like to have F3 functionality (usually for search-next in text/code editors) to be directly used without the Fn Key pressed but the F10 to F12 keys used like Fn would be pressed to directly change volume.

    Just gimme an app to remap keys, and of course it needs to work under wayland ;)
    Oh and btw i use arch!

    1. “This forces me always to write my own keyboard rules under /usr/share/X11/xkb which means they could get overwritten by an update.”
      You could always make the file read-only.

Leave a Comment

Yeah! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic! Check out our comment policy here. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation.