XKeyCaps is a graphical tool by JamieZawinski that allows one to click on a picture of one’s keyboard and manipulate the keysyms and modifier bits associated with one’s keys in real time. When you’re done, XKeyCaps can generate an XModMap input file so that you can persist your key rebindings at startup. This is interesting for Emacs users, since we are some of the last X users who actually care about modifier keys other than “shift” and “control.”

In addition to allowing you to ignore XModMap (certainly a benefit), XKeyCaps also prevents you from committing all kinds of common sins with your keymap. For example, it will warn you if you try to assign a modifier bit to a key that generates an incompatible keysym, if you try to assign the same modifier bit to keys with semantically different keysyms, etc.

You can download a copy of the source code at http://www.jwz.org/xkeycaps/, although users of FreeSoftware operating systems will probably have binary packages available to them.

A tutorial on keysyms, keycodes, modifier bits, etc. is contained in the XKeyCaps manual page. If you have never dealt with the X keyboard model before, it’s an entertaining bit of information. By “entertaining” I mean “nauseating,” and by “information” I mean “indescribable pain.”

Note that there hasn’t been a new release of XKeyCaps since 1999, and JamieZawinski has officially orphaned the project. That said, one shouldn’t have a problem with the 1999 version of the program, excepting possibly some new, impossibly eccentric keyboard.

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