Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Switching between 3 languages with i3

I type in 3 languages: English, Ukrainian, and Russian. It turns out, I never have to switch directly between Russian and Ukrainian. However, when typing in either Russian or Ukrainian I often switch to English to type email addresses, URLs, Unix commands, etc. In such scenario using standard X11 keyboard switching mechanism with setxkbmap specifying all 3 languages is impractical. It cycles through them sequentially! For comparison, MacOS handles this situation nicely with cycling only through the last 2 most recently used keyboard layouts. I already posted a solution for standard Ubuntu window manager, but now I wanted to make it work with i3 window manager.

The idea is to have two typing models "us/ru" and "us/ua". You can switch between them using a key combination. Within each mode, you can switch between the languages using Alt+SPACE (or another key).

First, download this script and copy it into your ~/bin/ directory. Then add the following 3 lines to your ~/.config/i3/config:

bindsym Mod1+space exec "xkb-switch -n; pkill -x --signal=SIGUSR1 i3status"

exec_always "setxkbmap -layout us,ru -variant ,mac"

bindsym $mod+z exec "~/bin/ /dev/shm/kbd2.txt 'setxkbmap -layout us,ru -variant ,mac' 'setxkbmap -layout us,ua' ; pkill -x --signal=SIGUSR1 i3status"

This is assuming you are using i3status keyboard indication method described in my previous post. Using it will also get the instant status bar update of the current keyboard languages. If you do not use i3status or do not need keyboard indicator you can use the following 2 lines instead:

exec_always "setxkbmap -layout us,ru -option grp:alt_space_toggle 

bindsym $mod+z exec "~/bin/ /dev/shm/kbd2.txt 'setxkbmap -layout us,ru -variant ,mac -option grp:alt_space_toggle' 'setxkbmap -layout us,ua -option grp:alt_space_toggle'

Now you can use WindowsKey+Z to switch between "us/ua" and "us/ru" modes and Alt+SPACE to switch between en and either ru or ua layouts.

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