lose xkb variant when switching windows

Eric Abrahamsen eric at ericabrahamsen.net
Wed Dec 11 18:51:22 PST 2013

This problem may be rooted elsewhere entirely, but I wanted to float it
here to see if it's familiar to anyone.

I'm using arch linux (the xorg-server package is at 1.14.4) with no
desktop environment, just plain X using the StumpWM window manager.
StumpWM is written in Lisp, and uses a pure Lisp X client library rather
than making calls to the system library, which is one place where I
thought the errors might be coming from.

I'm trying to shift between Qwerty and Colemak. My
/etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/00-keyboard.conf looks like this:

# Read and parsed by systemd-localed. It's probably wise not to edit this file
# manually too freely.
Section "InputClass"
        Identifier "system-keyboard"
        MatchIsKeyboard "on"
        Option "XkbLayout" "us,us"
        Option "XkbVariant" ",colemak"
        Option "XkbOptions" "compose:menu,ctrl:nocaps,terminate:ctrl_alt_bksp,grp:shifts_toggle"

I've also made a custom console keymap (I'm not sure that's even
relevant), which adds Control to the caps lock, puts compose on menu,
and alt instead of alt_gr on the right meta key.

My problem is that switching to colemak only "sticks" until I switch
windows, then it goes back to qwerty. Obviously I'd like it to stick
until I switch again!

While it's on colemaks, the caps key turns into a backspace (the other
control keys are unaffected). That reverts once I lose colemaks, though.


I've done a little more testing, and it's not just group switching: if I
run [setxkbmap -layout "us" -variant "colemak"], even that only lasts
until I switch windows, then it's back to qwerty.

I also install the xfce4 desktop environment, and the same thing happens

Hope this sounds familiar to someone...


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