Mousekeys: to point and click with the numerical keys

Categories:  linux
Labels:  terminal, tutorials

Mousekeys: to point and click with the numerical keys instead of a mouse. Apparently it’s a feature of X, which once was enabled by default—but not anymore.

Luckily we can pretty easily enable and configure it, with a utility called xkbset.

$ sudo apt-get install xkbset


$ xkbset m

To turn mousekeys on, then control the cursor as follows:

NUM 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9 Direction control NUM 5 Click – Switch to right click mode. Press 5 now to right click. / Switch to left click mode 0 (INS) Switch to select/drag mode. Now use direction control keys to select/drag stuff . (DEL) End select/drag (copied from


$ xkbset -m

To turn mousekeys off.

Personally I find the default configuration of mousekeys to be pretty slow (meaning moving the cursor across the screen takes a lot of time). The settings can be queried with:

$ xkbset q|grep Mouse

These values can be changed by running

$ xkbset ma [delay] [interval] [time_to_max] [max_speed] [curve] e.g. xkbset ma 60 10 10 5 2

Those values work quite well for me. What every setting means and does on its own and how they work together didn't become fully clear to me even after a lot of fiddling. In the end I found the values 60 10 10 5 2 on some website (don't know which). Here is an explanation of each though.

Now there’s one more thing one will discover: after some timeout mousekeys will be turned off automatically. This can be very annoying, and needn’t be!

$ xkbset q exp

shows the timeout value and how this affects mousekeys (Upon Expiry Mouse-Keys will be: ..) By default this is Off, to set it to Unchanged run:

$ xkbset exp =m

Well then, that covers what we need to know! Now to automate things I threw together a simple script that can be bound to some hotkeys in Openbox, which can then be used to toggle mousekeys on and off:

if [ "$(xkbset q|grep "Mouse-Keys = "|cut -d\ -f3)" = "Off" ]; then xkbset m ma 60 10 10 5 2 xkbset exp =m else xkbset -m fi

After finding all this out, I discovered that the mousekeys feature can also be activated by running:

$ setxkbmap -option keypad:pointerkeys

After which it can be toggled by pressing Shift-NumLock. I didn’t find out how one can then change the default values without using xkbset though, so I stick to my script :) If the default values are right for you, adding this to your Openbox autostart would be the easiest solution. You’ll be stuck with the timeout too though…

I stumbled upon even other approaches, involving adding or changing files in /etc/X11 or somewhere else in the system files… if anyone knows about this, feel free to share your knowledge!

Couldn't resist a quick search... … um-pad-key says:

Create a file /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/90-enable-pointerkeys.conf, with contents:

Section "InputClass" Identifier "Keyboard Defaults" MatchIsKeyboard "yes" Option "XkbOptions" "keypad:pointerkeys" EndSection

That’s what I meant… still no clue as to how to change the default values without xkbset though.


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