What commands are invoked when I press my media keys (play / pause, next, previous)?

I had a look at simulate media keys in the terminal, and my requirement is the same, except I cannot use the approach in the answer. The answers simulates the keys themselves using xdotools, which I cannot do because I have re-mapped what these keys do. What I want to know is the underlying mechanism in the OS which sends messages to apps which need to know multimedia keys are pressed. I suspect it may be related to dbus.


I had to re-map my media keys (play / pause, next, previous) to other commands this link contains some background.

I did this by removing the previous key-bindings for these media keys and re-assigning them in settings > keyboard > shortcuts.

I want to know the original command so that I can invoke spotify-command ; original-command on the keypress instead of just invoking spotify-command.

  • in Gnome I mean Ubuntu 18.04 18.10 19.04 19.10 I have installed Spotify but Multimedia keys worked out of the Box... are the media keys working for other AV apps?? – YuganTej Oct 27 '19 at 7:29
  • This is for unity, 16.04. If you want background on keys not working, have a look at the linked question. – Peeyush Kushwaha Oct 27 '19 at 7:40
  • I have gone through the link briefly.. I understood that you want 3 commands with dbus which are available in the link.. have you tried those? – YuganTej Oct 27 '19 at 7:42
  • are your multimedia keys working for other Audio Video Apps under Unity?? – YuganTej Oct 27 '19 at 7:42

when you press Multimedia Keys, they have keysymbols which can be known with the command xmodmap -pke | grep Audio


$ xmodmap -pke | grep Audio
keycode 121 = XF86AudioMute NoSymbol XF86AudioMute
keycode 122 = XF86AudioLowerVolume NoSymbol XF86AudioLowerVolume
keycode 123 = XF86AudioRaiseVolume NoSymbol XF86AudioRaiseVolume
keycode 171 = XF86AudioNext NoSymbol XF86AudioNext
keycode 172 = XF86AudioPlay XF86AudioPause XF86AudioPlay XF86AudioPause
keycode 173 = XF86AudioPrev NoSymbol XF86AudioPrev
keycode 174 = XF86AudioStop XF86Eject XF86AudioStop XF86Eject
keycode 175 = XF86AudioRecord NoSymbol XF86AudioRecord
keycode 176 = XF86AudioRewind NoSymbol XF86AudioRewind
keycode 198 = XF86AudioMicMute NoSymbol XF86AudioMicMute
keycode 208 = XF86AudioPlay NoSymbol XF86AudioPlay
keycode 209 = XF86AudioPause NoSymbol XF86AudioPause
keycode 215 = XF86AudioPlay NoSymbol XF86AudioPlay
keycode 216 = XF86AudioForward NoSymbol XF86AudioForward
keycode 234 = XF86AudioMedia NoSymbol XF86AudioMedia

from the link you provided, these commands should work for your Custom Keyboard Shortcuts

enter image description here

for Play/ Pause

dbus-send --print-reply --dest=org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.spotify /org/mpris/MediaPlayer2 org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.Player.PlayPause

for Next

dbus-send --print-reply --dest=org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.spotify /org/mpris/MediaPlayer2 org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.Player.Next

for Previous

dbus-send --print-reply --dest=org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.spotify /org/mpris/MediaPlayer2 org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.Player.Previous

for Stop

dbus-send --print-reply --dest=org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.spotify /org/mpris/MediaPlayer2 org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.Player.Stop

for Play

dbus-send --print-reply --dest=org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.spotify /org/mpris/MediaPlayer2 org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.Player.Play
  • Thanks for the reference to xmodmap. After the key is pressed, I believe it's up to the OS to execute a command associated with the key. Can you shed some light on what command is executed by ubuntu/unity when say XF86AudioNext key is pressed (without any custom configuration)? – Peeyush Kushwaha Oct 29 '19 at 6:48
  • Hi.. I think its difficult to know at my knowledge.. are you not looking for above dbus commands? – YuganTej Oct 29 '19 at 6:54
  • Nope, that's already clear from the spotify question I linked to. – Peeyush Kushwaha Oct 29 '19 at 6:55
  • yes.. I guess its the same command that will use by XF86 without spotify in the line dbus-send --print-reply --dest=org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.spotify....... similarly – YuganTej Oct 29 '19 at 7:02

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