Plasma secrets: additional languages and keyboard layouts

Updated: February 17, 2021

Welcome to the latest installment in my neverending Plasma desktop games. Today, I want to talk to you about something that is both trivial and complex. The use of other languages on your computer. While I fully believe the only acceptable machine interface language ought to be English, I also understand and appreciate that other people speak and use other languages - after all, I do it myself, four or five languages. You see, I just bragged there.

On a serious note, sometimes one may need to use non-ASCII 127 keyboard layout. And when that need strikes, you want your operating system to give you friendly help. Well, in today's guide, I want to show you the clever way the Plasma desktop handles languages and keyboard layouts. Powerful, elegant, and follow me.


We are the word, we are the Plasma

Launch Settings > Input Devices > Keyboard, or just search for Keyboard and launch the Keyboard Hardware and Layout. Click on the second tab, titled Layouts. This is where all the fun happens. First, usability wise, you can configure what kind of language indicator to use, if any, the language switching policy - you can define it per app, believe it or not, set multiple shortcuts. Super neat.

Keyboard layouts

Second, in the bottom half of the applet, you have the buttons to add, remove and arrange the layouts. When you want to add a new layout, you will have multiple options how and what to configure. You can narrow down your selection to only specific languages, or even specific variants. This is quite useful, because different variants often have different keyboard mappings. You can also set how to identify the different languages in the panel indicator, and even have per-language shortcuts. Lovely jubbly.

Choose layout

Variant 1

Variant 2

What the hell is a guillemet?

Best of all, you can preview any language selection - so you can see exactly how the keys and letters map. This is quite valuable when you have characters that don't exist on your keyboard - like say various Slavic letters, or perhaps you're using an alphabet that has more letters than the standard set on your device - let's say English keyboard, so 26 letters then.



There we go, another secret unveiled. Well, not really a secret, but you probably didn't think that much about this, or needed it until this point. The Plasma desktop environment handles the language addition and switching capability very elegantly. You can use tons of customization, down to having specific shortcuts per language and per application.

If you happen to use multi-language keyboard, because necessity, desire or just why not, you now have a little tutorial to help you tweak everything to perfection. We shall soon having another neat Linux keyboard article, which will show you how to map random, custom keys any which way you like. And if you have any questions on what else may be possible with Plasma, do tell. DVORAK away.


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