Mapping Numpad keys with sxhkd

In this tutorial, I explore how to map the Numpad keys to sxhkd in a Cooler Master Masterkeys Pro M ABNT2 keyboard.

About sxhkd

If you’re here, I supposed you know what sxhkd is, but in case you don’t, it is a Linux program that allows commands to be triggered by X input events. Basically, we use it to create OS-wide keyboard/mouse shortcuts.

sxhkd is especially useful in a window manager such as bspwm, which can be fully controlled via the command line.

The shortcuts are configured through a configuration file called sxhkdrc, which is kept in the $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/sxhkd directory. An example of this file can be found here.

About the keyboard

According to the CoolerMaster product website, the Masterkeys Pro M is a 90% keyboard, which means it has a Numpad, with the navigation keys merged with it.

When Num Lock is on, we have access to numbers, decimals, separators and operators when the keys are pressed.

When Num Lock is off, we have access to Insert, Delete, Home, End, Page Up, Page Down, Print Screen, Scroll Lock, Pause and arrows, using the same keys.

To complicate things a bit more, my keyboard uses the ABNT2 standard and that makes the Numpad a little different too. The figure below shows what I am working with (taken from this article). A link to the standard English Numpad can be found here for comparison.

Masterkeys Pro M ABNT2 Numpad

Getting keysims with xev when Num Lock is OFF…

These are the keysims that the xev Linux program gave me when pressing each one with Num Lock turned off.

To get all keysims correctly, I had to unbind the shortcuts that were already present in some keys, such as Print Screen, as they were triggering other X events.

Also, using the -event keyboard option helped me filter only the relevant events.

Num_Lock  Print Scroll_Lock   Pause
 Insert   Home     Prior      KP_Add
 Delete    End      Next    KP_Decimal
[Nothing]  Up    [Nothing]   KP_Enter
  Left    Down     Right     KP_Enter

Keys 1 and 3 don’t send any events at all, so I believe the keyboard just sends no signals for those keys when Num Lock is off.

… and when Num Lock is turned ON

When Num Lock is on, there are no surprises. Every key has a key name on xev.

Num_Lock KP_Divide KP_Multiply  KP_Subtract
  KP_7     KP_8       KP_9        KP_Add
  KP_4     KP_5       KP_6      KP_Decimal
  KP_1     KP_2       KP_3       KP_Enter
  KP_0     KP_0    KP_Separator  KP_Enter

Testing what works in sxhkd

In order to test the usage of these keysims in sxhkd, I created the following shortcuts. Basically, when I press super + a key in the Numpad, I should get its name in a system notification.

super + KP_{0-9,Divide,Multiply,Subtract,Add,Decimal,Enter,Separator}
    notify-send {0-9,Divide,Multiply,Subtract,Add,Decimal,Enter,Separator}

super + {Num_Lock,@Print,Insert,Home,Prior,Delete,End,Next,Scroll_Lock,Pause}
    notify-send {Num_Lock,Print,Insert,Home,Prior,Delete,End,Next,Scroll_Lock,Pause}

Below I show which keysims worked.

Num Lock OFF

Num_Lock KP_Divide KP_Multiply  KP_Subtract
  KP_7     KP_8        KP_9       KP_Add
  KP_4     KP_5        KP_6     KP_Decimal
  KP_1     KP_2        KP_3      KP_Enter
  KP_0     KP_0    KP_Separator  KP_Enter
  1. Even though I didn’t map the arrow keys in the above shortcut, I already knew they worked from countless other shortcuts that use them, so I added them to final results.

  2. At first, When I pressed Scroll Lock I was getting a notification that Pause was being pressed, but when I read the sxhkd man page, its said that

    If you have a non-QWERTY keyboard or a non-standard layout configuration, you should provide a COUNT of 1 to the -m option or -1 (interpreted as infinity) if you constantly switch from one layout to the other […]”

    So, when I passed 1 to -m, the Scroll Lock and Pause keys started working as expected.

Num Lock ON

Num_Lock KP_Divide KP_Multiply  KP_Subtract

All of the number keys + the separator key (a comma, in my case) did not work. The keysims of the three keys in the top row changed, so they could potentially be reused to other sxhkd shortcuts.

Final Notes

Even when Num_Lock and Scroll_Lock were mapped in sxhkdrc, pressing them alongside a shortcut still switched their respective lock modes on/off, which means that using these keys in keyboard shortcuts may be a bad idea, as one would be switching them on and off uncontrollably, changing the behavior of other keys and programs in the process.

So my recommendation is to leave them alone (as well as Caps Lock).

Another thing. If I:

  1. pressed super + Num_Lock
  2. released Num_Lock, but kept super pressed
  3. pressed one of the following keys, which had its keysim swapped once the Num Lock mode switched on/off:

    • @Print/KP_Divide
    • Scroll_Lock/KP_Multiply
    • Pause/KP_Subtract

I would still get the keysim from the active Num Lock mode at the moment super was first pressed. In order to “refresh” the Num Lock mode for sxhkd, I needed to release super and press it again.

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