How to get special keys to work

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key standard function tool configurability remarks
Fn - xmodmap, tpb full on release without completed key combination
FnF3 blank screen ibm-acpi, thinkpad-acpi full
FnF4 suspend to ram ibm-acpi, thinkpad-acpi full
FnF5 switch bluetooth ibm-acpi, thinkpad-acpi full in models starting from 2002
FnF7 switch display thinkpad-acpi, tpb additional actions
FnF8 toggle display expansion thinkpad-acpi, tpb additional actions
FnF9 eject from dock thinkpad-acpi full
FnF12 hibernate ibm-acpi, thinkpad-acpi full
FnPos1 brightness up tpb additional actions
FnEnd brightness down tpb additional actions
FnPageUp toggle thinklight ibm-acpi, tpb additional actions
FnSpace toggle zoom tpb full
Access IBM or ThinkPad help application tpb full
Home open web browser xmodmap, tpb full only iSeries and ext. keyboards
Search open search application xmodmap, tpb full only iSeries and ext. keyboards
Mail open mail application xmodmap, tpb full only iSeries and ext. keyboards
Favorites open favorites xmodmap, tpb full only iSeries and ext. keyboards
Reload reload web page xmodmap, tpb full only iSeries and ext. keyboards
Abort abort loading page xmodmap, tpb full only iSeries and ext. keyboards
Backward previous page xmodmap, tpb full iSeries, ext. keyboards, Thinkpads starting from 2002
Forward next page xmodmap, tpb full iSeries, ext. keyboards, Thinkpads starting from 2002
Volume up volume up tpb additional actions
Volume down volume down tpb additional actions
Volume mute mute volume tpb additional actions
Power shutdown ibm-acpi full triggered on pressing 3secs, but notebook goes off on 5sec press
Display lid blank screen ibm-acpi full
Ultrabay lid announce ultrabay change ibm-acpi full
Dock eject eject from dock ibm-acpi full

Triggering key events

ibm-acpi events

events triggered by ibm-acpi for /etc/acpi/events files
key event
FnF3 ibm/hotkey HKEY 00000080 00001003
FnF4 ibm/hotkey HKEY 00000080 00001004
FnF12 ibm/hotkey HKEY 00000080 0000100c
Power button/power PWRF 00000080 xxxxxxxx
Display lid button/lid LID 00000080 xxxxxxxx
Ultrabay eject ibm/bay MSTR 00000003 00000000
Ultrabay inserted ibm/bay MSTR 00000001 00000000

tpb configuration

configuration keywords for tpbrc
key config keyword
Access IBM or ThinkPad THINKPAD
FnSpace CALLBACK (zoom on/off)
FnPageUp CALLBACK (thinklight on/off)
FnF7 CALLBACK (display lcd/crt/both)
FnF8 CALLBACK (expand on/off)
FnHome CALLBACK (brightness <percent>)
FnEnd CALLBACK (brightness <percent>)
Volume up CALLBACK (volume <percent>)
Volume down CALLBACK (volume <percent>)
Volume mute CALLBACK (mute on/off)

To all parameter keywords should be assigned the full path to the executables supposed to be started on key press. The exectable provided for the CALLBACK keyword should take the parameters given in parentheses and act according to them. If you want to use xmodmap for the HOME, SEARCH, MAIL, FAVORITES, RELOAD, ABORT, BACKWARD, FORWARD and FN keys you should provide a XEVENTS=off in your tpbrc.

xmodmap configuration

xmodmap enables you to edit the modifier map and keymap tables that are used to translate keycodes into keysyms. Understood? Well, basically it allows you to give the X server a dictionary for the translation of keycodes like "97" into more human readable synonyms like "Home". This way xmodmap allows you to make the special keys of your keyboard known to X applications.

Usually you should write your keycode-keysym associations into the file ~/.Xmodmap. This file is usually read by the X session startup scripts of your system, so that the mappings automatically get included everytime you run the X server.

The ~/.Xmodmap lines for our purpose are in the form of

keycode <keycode> = <keysym>

The following table shows the keycodes generated by the Thinkpad special keys and sensible keysyms to assign them to.

keycodes and recommended keysyms
key keycode keysym
Backward 234 XF86Back or F21
Forward 233 XF86Forward or F22
Home 178 XF86HomePage
Search 229 XF86Search
Mail 236 XF86Mail
Favorites 230 XF86AddFavorite or XF86Favorites
Reload 231 XF86Reload
Abort 232 XF86Stop
Fn 227 F35

(In case you want to use the browser keys in Firefox, you will have to assign the F21 and F22 or similar keysyms to them.)

Note: if you are running tpb you might need to add the line XEVENTS=off into your tpbrc to stop it from grabbing the key events and allow them to get through to X instead.

Example Applications

Web Browsers


(First of all thanks go to Ryan Barrett for writing the little howto on his blog.)
To have firefox make use of the browser keys you need to modify one of its files. To do this you will first need to extract it from the browser.jar archive. Do...

$ cd <firefox-directory>/chrome
$ unzip browser.jar

The file of interest is content/browser/browser.xul. Edit it...

$ vi content/browser/browser.xul

Look for the <keyset id="mainKeyset"> section and add the following lines within...

<key id="goBackTP" keycode="VK_F21" command="Browser:Back" />
<key id="goForwardTP" keycode="VK_F22" command="Browser:Forward" />

No save the file and repackage the browser.jar archive...

$ zip -rD0 browser.jar content/browser/

That's it.

Another interesting Page on Firefox is It uses different key mappings (F19 resp. F20) but a ready .xpi is provided which is pretty comfortable.


However this isn't simple configration file, you can set your browser manualy.
Go to Tool > Settings > Mouse and keyboard > Keyboard settings > Edit > Browser Window. There add F21 - Back and F22 - Forward. Now you can surf using your TP keys ;-)

Window Managers


To get the Backwards and Forwards keys to cycle through pages in the virtual desktop, add this to your .fvwmrc:

Key    XF86Back     A      A   Scroll     -100000   0
Key    XF86Forward  A      A   Scroll     +100000   0

If you use multiple virtual desktops, you could instead use the keys to flip between them by using GotoDesk.

pekwm configuration

This is just a small example of what else you can do with your extra keys.
I configured the two browser keys of my T41p to switch workspaces in pekwm, by adding the following two lines to the .pekwm/keys file:

KeyPress = "Mod1 XF86Back" { Actions = "GoToWorkspace prev" }
KeyPress = "Mod1 XF86Forward" { Actions = "GoToWorkspace next" }


Another example how to use these two keys to switch between pwm tabs. These two lines should be added to $HOME/.pwm/keys-default.conf or /etc/pwm/keys-default.conf:

kbind "Back", "switch_rot", -1
kbind "Forward", "switch_rot", 1

Other Uses

Console tools configuraton

To make the prev page / next page keys (located at the cursor keys on my T42p) useful in console, add this to your keymap (/etc/console/boottime.kmap.gz in Debian):

keycode 158 = Decr_Console
keycode 159 = Incr_Console