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How To Utilize Your New Multimedia Keyboard Under Linux


Xbindkeys is a program that allows you to launch shell commands with your keyboard or your mouse under X Window. It links commands to keys or mouse buttons, using its configuration file. It does not depend on the window manager and can capture all keyboard keys.


  • a keyboard with special/multimedia buttons
  • xbindkeys
  • working X Window, doesn’t matter if it is KDE, Gnome or any other


Now you are familiar with the scope of this tuto, so let’s start! First of all xbindkeys can be obtained from two sources:

  • If you are on a Debian-based system you can use apt-get to install it. It is in the ‘universe’ repo in Ubuntu and in the ‘main’ section in Debian

    apt-get install xbindkeys

    (can be done as root or with sudo)

  • You can download the latest source from here:

After that go to the directory where you downloaded the source and unpack it with tar:

cd your_download_dir

Uncompress the source (1.x.x – refers for your version):

tar xzvf xbindkeys-1.x.x.tar.gz

Change to the new directory (created by tar):

cd xbindkeys-1.x.x

Install the program (as root):

su root
make install


The program is configured by the use of a file, .xbindkeysrc in your home directory. It is recommended to use the default configuration and then you can edit it according to your needs.

xbindkeys –defaults > $HOME/.xbindkeysrc

If you open the file with a text-editor you can see its structure:

# Next Track – Alt + Up

“xmms –fwd”

    m:0x8 + c:98

# Previous Track – Alt + Down

“xmms –rew”

    m:0x8 + c:104

It is pretty obvious, it has the command to be executed enclosed in quote characters, then a line after the keyboard codes which will cause that command to be executed. The line starts with hashmark (#) is for comment, recommended strongly. To find out the keycode you can do with:

xbindkeys -mk

This will pop up a window and show the keycodes when you hit keys. To quit when you done with your buttons press “q”.
You can check your current keys and commands with:

xbindkeys –show

Once you have setup your .xbindkeysrc you can start the program by running:

xbindkeys &

This runs the command in the background causing to listen for keyboard events and execute the commands it knows about when finds a combination listed in its config file. To start xbindkeys when you login:
the best way to do this, as long as you’re logging in via KDM or GDM, is to put xbindkeys in your ~/.bashrc file.


You can use xbindkeys-config, a GUI utility for editing your .xbindkeysrc. It can be installed with apt-get. Please note, create the config file with

xbindkeys –defaults > $HOME/.xbindkeysrc

before using the graphical application otherwise it will crash on saving.

Now, you are done. You can start using your extra buttons without installing any special driver!