Is there a PC keyboard for Linux, that ALWAYS prints THE SAME SINGLE character that is displayed on the key being pressed?

The core (the X in XY problem) problem of mine is, that

  • after pressing 'z', the 'y' appears and vice versa
  • pressing (most) keys is often a hit-n-miss, what appears on the actual display often differs from the image on the key being pressed
  • at least two non-ASCII characters are shown on each key and even more possibilities for the character to pop up after pressing it emerge, when considering layouts
  • more characters per key = smaller size per character = harder to read (more so for the visually impaired)
  • keys for the characters with accents are merged with the keys for numbers
  • keys for the characters with accents are absent
  • nobody knows when CAPS LOCK is activated (no, a LED is not enough, I don't desire to check it each time I'm to press a key, which reduces the is-capital-problem to hit-n-miss)
  • nobody knows when NUM LOCK is NOT activated, in fact, often it isn't, which makes me wonder who could ever profit from a disabled NUM LOCK

I was given multiple answers explaining how it can't be done for various technical reasons. I don't care! Tell me how it can be done, or better, how it is done.

What I'm implying (the Y in XY problem) is, the physical images on the keys should always resemble the character to appear on the screen. Obviously, one might think of a huge keyboard with everything but the kitchen sink, but that's absurd.

For one, I'm sure it can be solved by e-ink keys and I'm sure there are many more choices out there. Maybe the keyboard itself could have an OS to interact with host OS as an intermediary, an adapter. Maybe some sensoric feedback, some integrated touchscreen, some gestures, anything.

Provided a similar product exists:

  • If I ain't asking too much, could it NOT destroy my carpal tunnel while doing its job?

  • If I still ain't asking much, could it be wireless? Bluetooth would probably be pushing it. I'd do with a dongle that gets accidentally destroyed, making the whole keyboard effectively and irreversibly unusable.

  • So, for clarity, you're effectively looking for a keyboard that has only one character on each key - and things like Shift to get an alternative character don't work?
    – ArtOfCode
    May 17, 2017 at 15:49
  • Shift might be acceptable (not by me though), but what about anything else? Obviously, I'd like to use a reasonable amount of Unicode characters beyond ASCII. And I don't want a huge keyboard. So it seems, the only way'd be to somehow "reprogram" (not only map) the visual characters on appropriate keys for all the charset to fit. I'd like to do it in hardware of course (by Shift key, or "change to programming layout" key, change to "calculator" layout, change to "chinese layout" key, etc.). To make the keyboard match the intended usecase, to remove redundancy, clutter, to do one job and well.
    – Slazer
    May 17, 2017 at 15:59
  • Imagine after hitting one particular key, there are at least three different characters to show on my display: 2, @ and "ľ". That's ludicrous!
    – Slazer
    May 17, 2017 at 16:02
  • It's obscene we are still bounded by limitations given by mechanical typewriters. How else to explain the overloading of the keys, than by the historical fact it was done this way for the sake of.. well.. design limitations of typewriters? I don't see these limitations apply to current technologies. Still, we are obliviously constrained by them. And each is happy.. Well guess what, I'm not. I want my product, is there?
    – Slazer
    May 17, 2017 at 16:15
  • 1
    I think, somewhere buried in your rant, you're asking for a keyboard that changes its labeling based on what modifier keys you've got pressed, so that the picture on the key always matches what will appear on the screen. Is this correct?
    – Mark
    May 17, 2017 at 20:07

3 Answers 3


I was given multiple answers explaining how it can't be done for various technical reasons. I don't care! Tell me how it can be done, or better, how it is done.

Not gonna get far with an attitude like that, but I guess I'll tell you again that what you're looking for doesn't exist. It's impractical to a level where trying to produce and market a product that fills your requirements would sell one unit, and that unit would be sold to you. There is no keyboard that has dynamic displays that would change in response to stimulus from the Linux OS. Keyboard manufacturers have trouble getting little LED screens for "gaming" keyboards to play nicely with AAA software titles on Windows; thus, there's definitely nothing that exists and even if it did you'd have to build all those interactions into your Linux distro yourself. Here are the options that I see available to you:

  1. Get a programmable board with different presets of keybindings. You may have a tough time finding something that works for you though, because a lot of these boards tend to be smaller and thus the multiple inputs per key scale as the number of keys gets smaller. If you look at an Anne Pro mechanical keyboard, for example, it's got 4 preset key combinations and one of those can be programmed as any layout you like. It's also got a ton of commands per key because it's a 60% size board. It is wireless but it's bluetooth, which I know you said you didn't want. Unfortunately almost all wireless keyboards that aren't $20 use bluetooth, especially the ones with the kind of programmable features you're looking for.

  2. Get two full size programmable boards and program one board for all of the primary key inputs and then the other board for all the secondary inputs and then buy custom keycaps for each board with only the symbol you want printed on them.

It sounds like you "need" option 2 because this issue is driving you nuts, and I get that. It sounds like what you "want" is something like option number 1, but that's never going to fulfill all of the standards you want to meet. You're either going to have to make a compromise here or get creative beyond my capabilities. Best of luck.


One possibility would be not to use the keyboard at all. The Tap is a new device that, after attaching to the fingers, allows one to write just tapping on whatever surface there is, the table, the sofa, even your (or so's) body.

I think it requires you to know the layout from memory, but the video shows a guy wearing some VR googles, so I think the actual keyboard (&layout) can be virtual altogether. I'm not sure if it's commercially available though, so this is just a suggestion.

source: The Tap (project homepage)


Another possibility is this new Apple keyboard, that's to be put into 2018 MacBooks. It has e-ink keys and stuff.

source: The Verge (news site)

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