My right hand is temporarily immobilized and I would like to do some minor general work on my computer. Mostly web browsing, mailing and file and directory browsing and editing. For this I currently use Firefox, Thunderbird, Nautilus and the GNOME terminal (I have already asked a specific question about Emacs). Are there ways to ease such, or any other general, one-handed work in Ubuntu?

I have found https://stackoverflow.com/questions/2391805/how-can-i-remain-productive-with-one-hand-completely-immobilized but that is not exactly what I am asking for. I want to ease whatever little time spent one-handed in Ubuntu and this is also interesting for situations where there is no injury involved, such as when one hand is occupied. I do realize I should avoid unnecessary strain.

The main thing that is much slower one-handed is writing. Since I am only temporarily immobilized it seems to make no sense learn a new keyboard layout. I would be surprised if I managed to learn and become more effective with a new keyboard layout (than one-handed QWERTY) before I can use my other hand again.

What I have already found:

  • Sticky keys for making it easier to enter keyboard commands.
  • When writing one-handed there are more cases of where it is useful to paste in phrases rather than to reenter them.
  • It is easier to use Super+S rather than CtrlAlt+arrow keys to switch work space.

6 Answers 6


I am writing this even considering that the person's right hand is also permanently immobilized.


You might want to start using your mouse using left hand for the time being. You can change the mouse from Right Hand to Left Hand

Changing mouse from right-handed to left-handed


You should change your keybindings which needs a key combo and the other key is on the right side. Like P or change screen lock from Ctrl+Alt+L

You can change your Keyboard bindings from Keyboards in System Settings

Changing system wide keyboard shortcuts

As I have never been in such a situation, so imagining is a bit tough.

  • Would not using sticky keys be a better alternative than rebinding?
    – N.N.
    Mar 24, 2012 at 19:58
  • Depends on the user. If the person can get adapted to rebinding then it would be lot faster than sticky keys. Mar 24, 2012 at 20:00

Half Qwerty Half Keyboards Half QWERTY is for the user who recently was an excellent typist with two hands.

Half Qwerty uses the skills that have been acquired after many years of typing with two hands. Half Qwerty allows the remaining strong hand to do what it has always been trained to do, on the side of the keyboard on which it has always typed. enter image description here

Video clips here

Site content here

I do not promote this as such. I am providing an alternative.

Please read on.

Another option may be a speech to text software which is available Here

This allows a person to talk to the computer and produce text. Written in GTK+ very adaptable.

source here this is the front end for "eSpeak"

enter image description here

  • Is there soft-mods, e.g. some Ubuntu software, for achieving the same functionality with a normal keyboard?
    – N.N.
    Mar 24, 2012 at 20:28
  • I am sorry I did not find a soft mod specifically for Ubuntu. There are Mac-PC apps. I did find something on superuser. superuser.com/questions/222893/…
    – Ringtail
    Mar 24, 2012 at 20:36

A linux software version of the Half-QWERTY concept is available here:

Mirrorboard: A one-handed keyboard layout for the lazy

Using the 'mirroring' concept to type with one hand is definitely the way to go, if you are only temporarily injured. It lets you start typing with one hand almost immediately. No need to learn a completely new layout.

The best version have predictive text to pick the most-likely word automatically, rather than having to specify every key using spacebar. However I'm not aware of any predictive text versions for Linux.

Predictive Text versions:
One-Hand Keyboard [Mac App Store] or [Free Trial]
One-Hand Keyboard [Windows PC]

Other mirrored one-handed resources:


  • This is interesting and seems to be a soft mod variant of a real half QWERTY keyboard. Could you please include some instruction on how to set these up? Where is the predictive version to be found and what dictionaries does it work with?
    – N.N.
    Mar 29, 2012 at 21:34
  • Added links to my predictive-text one-hand keyboards for OS X and Windows. Not aware of any for Linux... although that "Mirrorboard" post above does say: xkcd@aram:~$ cat words | grep -i “^[qp][a'][ru][dk][ei][vn][gh]$” turns up “parking”.
    – pkamb
    Apr 4, 2012 at 18:26

Applets could help a lot.

For switching workspaces, with mouse: Workspaces Indicator Ubuntu 11.04. A very simple application indicator to show and switch between workspaces, install and run from dash:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:geod/ppa-geod
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install indicator-workspaces

The really useful one, Pastie, is a simple clipboard manager, launch from dash

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:hel-sheep/pastie
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install pastie

I don't know if Paste is exactly what I mean, look for something for being able to have the option of keeping many words for pasting.

As a lazy person I use on screen keyboard sometimes, only not to raise my hand from mouse to put it on keyboard... (actually that is only when I'm very tired after working for 6–7 hours).

  • Could you please include explanations how why those tools are useful for this kind of situation? Also, including instructive screenshots would help you prove your point.
    – N.N.
    Mar 25, 2012 at 11:15
  • workspace switch was another alternative to CTRL+ALT+ARROW, and for paste, you wants to use a lot of copy pastes, this applet is great since it gives you ability to have many words ready to paste anywhere, i wish i could install the applets for taking screen shots, i'm not admin of system, sorry
    – hkoosha
    Mar 25, 2012 at 16:32
  • found an screen shot: [link]omgubuntu.co.uk/2011/01/…
    – hkoosha
    Mar 25, 2012 at 16:38
  • Please include the explanations in your answer instead (by editing it). This will make your answer better. Comments are not read by all.
    – N.N.
    Mar 25, 2012 at 16:50
  • sure thing, next time
    – hkoosha
    Mar 26, 2012 at 13:11

Look at Coffee++. It is a keyboardlayout for typing with just your left hand. Optional you can use the right hand in addition to speed up typing.

It is also optimized for Programmers: so all main special characters are accessible easily


I just started using Randall Munroe's mirrorboard mapping on Ubuntu 14.04, and it's working reasonably well.

One thing that surprised me was that the cursor keys stopped working. Turns out that I can control the cursor by turning off Num Lock and then using Caps Lock + number pad keys. It's not one-handed, but it works well enough to get me through the day.

It was also not obvious how to turn it off. The best I found was to open System Settings and click on Text Entry. Add another input source and switch to it in your menu bar, then switch back to English and the mirrorboard will be gone.

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