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This chapter is from the book

Input Devices

The primary interface between you and your computer is your keyboard and mouse. Both of these are essential to the correct usage of your computer, so it is important that they are configured correctly. Windows users will be familiar with the basic options available, so it could come as somewhat of a shock to learn that you can do a few more nifty things with a keyboard and mouse in Ubuntu.

Keyboard Shortcuts

If you have used a computer for more than a few years, you probably long for keyboard shortcuts for popular commands. Ubuntu allows you to set your own keyboard shortcuts for a wide variety of system commands. The easy-to-use Keyboard Shortcuts option under System, Preferences lists a lot of different actions that you can program shortcuts for (see Figure 2.12).

Figure 2.12

Figure 2.12 Make your life easier and your work go more quickly by configuring useful keyboard shortcuts.

If you have one of those multimedia keyboards with lots of extra keys, this is the place to configure their use. Just click on the shortcut next to the action you want to configure and press the key that you want to map to this action. Repeat this until you have exhausted all the combinations that you want to configure. Then click Close to finish.

Keyboard Layout

Getting the layout of your keyboard right can make a huge difference in how you work. When you installed Ubuntu (see Chapter 1), you would have specified the default keyboard layout to use. However, there may be times when you need to switch layouts, which you can do using the Keyboard tool in the System, Preferences menu (see Figure 2.13).

Figure 2.13

Figure 2.13 Use the Keyboard Layout tool to ensure that you have your keyboard settings configured correctly.

Certainly, I've had to configure this for my wife. You see, in the United Kingdom our @ key is located to the right of the colon/semicolon key, whereas in the United States it is located on the number 2 key. My wife spent quite a few years in the States and got used to the U.S. keyboard layout. So instead of her having to learn a new layout, I just configured her login to use the U.S. layout and mine to use the U.K. layout, which has saved us from a number of arguments!

However, you can also use the Keyboard Layout tool to configure special key behaviors. For instance, some people prefer to swap the Caps-Lock and left Ctrl key around. You can set this option and others in the Layout Options tab. If you are not yet an l33t hacker, experiment with what's on offer; you may get some benefit from these customizations.

Finally, Ubuntu can also configure and enforce typing breaks, all in the name of good health. Simply set the length of working time, the duration of the break, and whether you want to be able to postpone. When this is activated at the end of the first length of working time, Ubuntu locks the computer and will not let you log back in until the break duration has passed. Of course, if you are in the middle of something important, setting the Postpone option may prove useful.


There's not really much to configuring a mouse. Ubuntu does a great job of detecting most mice, except that it's not so good at configuring extra buttons over and above the left and right button and scroll wheel. The most useful option here is the Locate Pointer option, which highlights the mouse pointer when you press the Ctrl key. Of course, if you are left-handed, you can also swap the mouse buttons over, but this is a matter of personal preference.

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