Apple Aluminium-Keyboard under Linux

I own a cabled, aluminium Apple-Keyboard (which seems to be discontinued). And I like it. It has a good feel to it and I like the distance between the Keys. I know there are very similar Keyboards like the Cherry STRAIT or the matias Mac-Keyboard but, well, it's Linux so it should be possible to map the Keyboary-Scancodes to whichever logical Keys you want, right?

Wired Apple keyboard Image CC-BY 2.0 by

Turns out, it is; but it is far from obvious how it has to be done. So here I write down how I accomplished it, but there are probably even more options including adding your all DKMS Kernel-Patches, like suggested by the Ubuntu-Wiki. I'm writing this for an Ubuntu 18.04, but the Solution might also work on Ubuntu 16.04 or Newer Debians.

Step 1: Keyboard Layout

Probably the most obvious change: Set your Keyboard-Layout to one of the Mac-Variants. For me the right one is called German - (Macintosh, no dead keys) or German - (Macintosh) – depending on your preferred flavor, both in the German (Germany) group. This will map

  • Alt-N to ~
  • Alt-E to
  • Alt-L to @

This does however leave your Function-Keys F1-F12 mapped to their Multimedia-Functions, Alt/Super is still swapped and some of the Second-Level Keys are still wrong, especially

  • <
  • >
  • ^

are still wrong.

Step 2: Kernel Module hid-driver

They are fixable by setting a kernel-Option iso_layout on the hid_apple-module to 0 (Default-Value is 1), so that it actually supports non-english keyboard layouts:

echo 0 | sudo tee /sys/module/hid_apple/parameters/iso_layout

Next up are the function-keys. Setting the Option fnmode to 2 gives a reasonable behaviour. Citing from the Ubuntu-Wiki:

  • 0 = disabled : Disable the 'fn' key. Pressing 'fn'+'F8' will behave like you only press 'F8'
  • 1 = fkeyslast : Function keys are used as last key. Pressing 'F8' key will act as a special key. Pressing 'fn'+'F8' will behave like a F8.
  • 2 = fkeysfirst : Function keys are used as first key. Pressing 'F8' key will behave like a F8. Pressing 'fn'+'F8' will act as special key (play/pause).
echo 2 | sudo tee /sys/module/hid_apple/parameters/fnmode

To persist these options, copy them into a modprobe-Config and regenerate initramfs:

echo 'options hid_apple fnmode=2 iso_layout=0 swap_opt_cmd=0' | sudo tee /etc/modprobe.d/hid_apple.conf
sudo update-initramfs -u -k all

But what's about swap_opt_cmd, I hear you ask? Unfortunately setting this Option to 1 will swap Alt and Super-Keys, Left and Right – but in Reality only the Left keys are swapped in Hardware, when compared to a Mac with this Keyboard connected. Setting this Option would actually remove the Alt-Key from your right Hand.

So ne need another Option to only swap the left Key:

Step 3: Gnome Tweak Tool

Gnome Tweak-Tool to the rescue:

Gnome Tweak-Tool showing the Setting "Left Alt is swapped with Left Win" in
the "Additional Layout Oprions" under the "Keyboard & Mouse" Tab

With the Gnome Tweak-Tool it's possible to only swap the left Keys, which is exactly wht I want.

Step 4: Hotkeys

As a last thing, I added some Hotkeys I'm used to have from my MacBook, for Example Super-4 for gnome-screenshot --area.

I also like to setup some Hotkeys for moving Windows around, but they are not Mac-Specific and ask for another Blog-Post.