Adventures with the MS Office Keyboard

For the past few years, I’ve been using the Microsoft Office Keyboard. It was a gift from my mom, as my previous keyboard stopped working one day. Now, I’m sure a lot of people’s first thought is that this keyboard sucks because it’s from Microsoft, but so far, I’ve really enjoyed it. I have the Application Left/Right buttons mapped to switch desktops quickly and easily, and the Cut, Copy, and Paste buttons for making a window sticky, shading it, and launching a terminal. Works well enough.

Until just the other day, I had this all configured through .xmodmap and my window manager settings. However, in GNOME 2.5.x, the keyboard settings are apparently supposed to be controlled by the Keyboard control center applet, and my xmodmap settings are now ignored. My latest build of gnome-control-center CVS even shows a dialog saying that the xmodmap settings will be ignored.

So, I launched the keyboard control center applet and selected my MS Office Keyboard from the list. Perfect, I thought. That is, until I learned that my End key no longer worked, and none of the shortcut keys on the keyboard did what they were supposed to. I put it away for awhile and started manually using xmodmap and resetting the shortcuts every time I launched GNOME, until I had time to actually fix it.

The other day, I decided to fix this. The problem was actually in XFree86’s inet keyboard symbols file, in the Microsoft Office Keyboard definition. After poking around and learning how these files were constructed and what the <I#> and <E#> codes meant, I finally patched up my definition. It was an almost 100% change, so I’m assuming that either the guy who wrote this entry was on crack, or that it was for an older version of this keyboard (unless it’s a newer one, but I kind of doubt that).

I’m mostly writing this so that if any Linux users with this keyboard want it set up properly, they’ll have the information available. I have a replacement inet file available that works with my keyboard. I’d be curious to know if there are MS Office Keyboard users out there that have their xkb settings set to use this keyboard who aren’t experiencing problems.

10 thoughts on “Adventures with the MS Office Keyboard”

  1. Sorry, but there are really only 2 ways to do it: either load xmodmap after the session startup (wrong way) and fix/add keyboard definitions (right way). Thanks for doing it right. Could you submit your fixed version to xfree please?

  2. I plan to submit the fixed version sometime this week, after tests are over. I’m still curious as to whether the previous version was a valid config at one point, or what the deal was. It had some strange mappings, such as mapping the right control key to Paste, the End key to Internet AND to Undo, etc. Anyhow, I’ll submit it to them in a couple of days.

  3. How exactly did you bind terminal to the Paste key? Are you using Metacity’s commandN features? These do not seem to work for me after a reboot.

  4. As of May 2007 ( version 7.1.1), the default keymapping for the Microsoft Office Keyboard is still screwed up. (For example, I hit “End” in xev and it says, “Undo”).

    It doesn’t sound like making the inet file will be too hard according to

    When I figure it out, I will post it here.


  5. I don’t suppose the keyboard configuration file has shown up, or a different URL has been made available ?

    The lack of an end key is pretty painful.

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