So I have an IBM Thinkpad X31, running natty and xmonad as the window manager. The keyboard is Italian. I wish to use an American English keyboard mapping, all the time. How do I do this?

3 Answers 3


Here is one way to connect XMonad and multiple keyboard layouts.

Step 1. Create a script that will switch between your layouts. For the sake of example, let's say we will support English (US), Italian and French.


# switch between my layouts

# If an explicit layout is provided as an argument, use it. Otherwise, select the next layout from
# the set [us, it, fr].
if [[ -n "$1" ]]; then
    setxkbmap $1
    layout=$(setxkbmap -query | awk 'END{print $2}')
    case $layout in
                setxkbmap it
                setxkbmap fr
                setxkbmap us

Test this script - run it and see if the keyboard layout cycles between the layouts. If it does, proceed to the next step.

Step 2. Customize XMonad settings to support custom key binding that will switch the layout.

In your home directory, create a directory named ".xmonad" (if it does not exist).


import XMonad
import XMonad.Hooks.DynamicLog
import XMonad.Hooks.ManageDocks
import XMonad.Util.Run(spawnPipe)
import XMonad.Util.EZConfig(additionalKeys)
import System.IO

main = do
  xmonad $ defaultConfig
        terminal = "gnome-terminal"
     } `additionalKeys`
     [ (( mod1Mask             , xK_Escape), spawn "/home/you/bin/layout_switch.sh")

Now, restart XMonad by pressing Mod+q. Your layout switcher should be fully functional.

Reference: http://zuttobenkyou.wordpress.com/tag/setxkbmap/

  • This works fine, but restarting XMonad was not enough, I had to logout and in (I am on Ubuntu, with its login manager).
    – Gauthier
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 7:59
  • works great! but when I'm using cyrillic layout, shortcuts like Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V don't work, which is annoying. This does not happen in gnome. Any leads on how this can be fixed? Commented Nov 27, 2021 at 2:37

You might already have a startup file to launch and configure things at login.

Add the following line to use several keyboard layouts:

# Keyboard layout switcher
setxkbmap -layout us,se -variant ,kinesis -option 'grp:alt_shift_toggle'

-layout and -variant work together. Here my layouts are us (no variant, empty before the comma), and se(kinesis). Variants could be dvorak, for example. You can omit variant if you don't want them.

-option sets here the keyboard shortcut to switch between layouts.

For windows to remember their layout:

# Per window keyboard layout

If you use xmobar and want to show the current layout, add this to your .xmobarrc Config:

, commands = [...
, Run Kbd [("se", "SE"), ("us", "US")]
, template = "...... %kbd% "

That was for all people googling for multiple keyboard layouts and finding this thread. If you want only one keyboard layout, add this to your startup script:

setxkbmap -layout us

To change your keyboard mapping to American English, you run the command setxkbmap us. To integrate it with Xmonad, you add it to the startup hook.

  • This isn't enough. When my computer goes to sleep, the settings are "forgotten" once the computer wakes up.
    – sleblanc
    Commented Feb 13, 2021 at 0:11

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