Enterprise Linux Log

Jan 9 2008   1:32PM GMT

Use virtual keyboards to support international Linux systems

Rick Vanover Rick Vanover Profile: Rick Vanover

Should you be so privileged as to be in a position to have to support international enterprise Linux installs or distributions, you may run into the occasional situation where you need local characters and your keyboard can’t offer much help. I had a chance to run a tool called Javascript VirtualKeyboard (JVKb) that you can host locally to give you access to the international keyboard and the characters contained. This tool will offer a floating keyboard localized in your choice of many languages. I’ll show you how I used it and how it may help any of your situations where you need local characters or on a remote system need an English (US) keyboard.

Getting Started is Straightforward

JVKb is obtained as a single tar file that you extract, and then access via an HTML page. There is no install required for JVKb, but a Java runtime environment (jre) is required to execute the Javascript (.js) files. Most current Linux builds will provide a compatible jre for JVKb. You could also extract the files and host them centrally to keep an even smaller footprint for your systems where you may need another language in the form of a keyboard.

Running JVKb on Demand

Because there is no install, we can launch the JVKb as needed. I opened up the HTML file and launched a pop-up keyboard, here is a Czech keyboard popping up on my CentOS Linux console in GNOME:

Czech language floating keyboard

I also am able to access the JVKb within a VNC session, which would be helpful if the system is remote. Here is a Greek keyboard floating within a VNC session:

Greek Keyboard within VNC


JVKb is not robust, but since it is free we should not complain too much. It would save time if it mapped over the sessions keyboard instead of relying on copy and paste. Also, all characters that appear may not be available in the virtual keyboards. The other limitation is that it cannot be launched or used within a terminal or SSH session. 

This application is helpful in several different ways, but the missing character problem may also be a nuisance if you come across a password that is set to contain a character from the other language. Watch your remote installations for this.

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