Xorg/Using the numeric keyboard keys as mouse

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XOrg comes with built-in mouse emulation using the keyboards numeric keypad. The trick is to use Shift+NumLock to toggle the use of the numeric pad as a keyboard mouse on and off, after enabling this feature in the X configuration.

This feature comes in handy when someone funny removes the ball from the mouse, or when the touchpad controller has crashed.

How to enable keyboard mouse keys

Mouse emulation with the number pad keys used to be a default standard feature of Xorg/X11. Most of the modern GNU/Linux distributions have disabled this still built-in feature. It can be manually (re)enabled either by creating or editing a configuration file in the directory /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/ (create it if it does not exist).

The XkbOptions with the value keypad:pointerkeys. Add or append the following line to the /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/30-keyboard.conf file.

Option "XkbOptions" "keypad:pointerkeys"

Like the directory above, the file may need created if it does not already exist. For example:

FILE /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/30-keyboard.conf
Section "InputClass"
  Identifier "system-keyboard"
  MatchIsKeyboard "on"
  Option "XkbOptions" "keypad:pointerkeys"

This feature can also be activated in a currently running instance of X by issuing the following command in a terminal:

user $setxkbmap -option keypad:pointerkeys

Controlling the keyboard "mouse"

Hold the Shift key and press NumLock to enable keyboard mouse emulation. A short beep may be emitted depending on computer and kernel configuration.

Laptops without a real number pad may require holding the Fn key to use the "numeric pad", which makes this key combo tricky.

To move the mouse pointer:

  • 7, 8, 9 are the up direction.
  • 4, 6 are left and right.
  • 1, 2, 3 are the down direction.

Clicking using the emulated mouse buttons is slightly tricky, the trick is:

  • / selects the left mouse button.
  • * selects the middle mouse button.
  • - selects the right mouse button.

Do note that /, * and - will only select and make a mouse button active. To actually use the active mouse button, press:

  • 5 or + to do the actual mouse-click (press it twice for a double click; and thrice for a triple click),
  • 0 / Ins to press and hold the selected mouse button (e.g. for dragging something),
  • . / Del to release the currently selected mouse button.

The numpad emulated mouse is easy to use as long as the mouse button is first selected for (ab)use by pressing / for left mouse button, - for the right button or * for the middle, and then pressing 5 to do the actual click (or Ins / Del for drag-and-drop).

Example: To do a mouse-click with the middle button, first press the * key and then 5 to click.