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Forget all the rants about Caps Lock, Num Lock is the most useless key of them all. It's never, ever useful. You don't want to use your numpad as an arrowpad, since the arrows are 1cm away from it. Ever.

There was a time when some keyboards had a numpad but no dedicated arrow keys. They don't exist anymore. You can find keyboards with no numpad but with arrow keys, but not the opposite.

Therefore, Num Lock is useless, and it only serves to aggravate me and, I presume, others. Please note that I do not want to know how to turn Num Lock on at startup, I do not want to know how to tear the key off, I want to disable it so that it stays on all the time and can't be turned off by mistake. Any idea how to do that?

Ideally I'd like to be able to reclaim the key for another use, such as a modifier that allows me to type hex on the numpad.

Additionally I'd love to know how to turn off the equally useless mouse emulation triggered by Shift + Num Lock.

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And how do you get the nice key cap style in MarkDown? Couldn't find it! – niXar Nov 17 '09 at 13:23
The <kbd> tag is not a feature of MarkDown! It has been around since HTML 3.2. – eleven81 Nov 17 '09 at 13:34
+1 I admire your passion, it reflects my feelings on CapsLock vs Ctrl. – kmarsh Nov 17 '09 at 13:57
@rich: I said I didn't want to hear about that, and it doesn't solve the problem, since if for some reason numlock turns off, you can't turn it back on. – niXar Nov 17 '09 at 17:15
There is one case in which laptop manufacturers override regular alpha characters for a number pad but thats a specific usecase. – wag2639 Apr 16 '11 at 5:12
up vote 18 down vote accepted

Well for your first question, you can remap it to nothing with xmodmap:

xmodmap -e "keycode # = """

where # is the scan code of NumLock. You can find the scan code using xev. Instead of nothing you can remap it to any key you'd like.

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Well thank you very much, that answered my question. I did xmodmap -e 'keycode 77 = ISO_Level3_Shift Num_Lock', so that I can turn the thing on if it goes off, and use the key itself as a modifier. – niXar Nov 17 '09 at 13:48
Nice idea, well done :) – John T Nov 17 '09 at 13:49

Are you sure it is not needed? For example, I use arrows on a numpad when playing FreeCiv, because it also have diagonal arrows, and usual arrows have not.

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Agreed. On a more serious note, there's the Compiz Put plugin (included by default) which can be used to move windows to any corner or the center of the screen with a single key combo. – l0b0 Feb 21 '12 at 13:28

Well I know for sure that if you run this as root, it will enable Num Lock, and at least on my machine I cannot turn it off,

echo /etc/rc.local >> 'for tty in /dev/tty?; do /usr/bin/setleds -D +num < "$tty"; done'

I am using Arch Linux, so you might want to find the appropriate file for your particular flavour of *nix... but this should enable Num Lock at boot, and leave the actual key open to be remapped. I love the idea of using it as a modifer to type in Hex, I hadn't thought of that.

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For further reading, check out the loadkeys command, it can alter the keyboard for console logins, too.

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I noticed this was tagged "Gnome", however for those who ended up here and are using KDE, it is really easy to make the numpad always print numbers.

In System settings > Hardware > Input devices > Keyboard > Advanced

Check "Configure keyboard options" then check "Miscellanous compatibilty options" > "Numeric keypad always enter digits (as in Mac OS)"

Click apply and it works directly.

"Miscellanous compatibilty options" > "Toggle PonterKeys with Shift + NumLock" Will turn on/off mouse emulation by Shift + NumLock, however this is off by default.

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Following John and niXar's answer above, for a standard keyboard, this should be added to your .xprofile or a similar file:

xmodmap -e 'keycode 77 = NoSymbol Num_Lock'


  • xmodmap is a "utility for modifying keymaps and pointer button mappings in Xorg".
  • -e evaluates a xmodmap command.
  • keycode is a command to assign keycodes (physical keys) to keysyms ("encoding of a symbol on the cap of a key", see below.)
  • Keycode 77 is the NumLock key.
  • The first keysym, NoSymbol is the key press output when no modifiers are pressed with this key.
  • The second keysym, Num_Lock is the key press output when the shift modifier is pressed with this key.
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For Ubuntu 16.04 - xmodmap is not a permanent solution. Instead, install "Gnome Tweak Tools", navigate to Typing-->Miscellaneous Compatibility Options, and select "Numeric keypad keys always enter digits".

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