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Chapter 2. System Locale and Keyboard Configuration

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The system locale specifies the language settings of system services and user interfaces. The keyboard layout settings control the layout used on the text console and graphical user interfaces.

These settings can be made by modifying the /etc/locale.conf configuration file or by using the localectl utility. Also, you can use the graphical user interface to perform the task; for a description of this method, see Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Installation Guide.

2.1. Setting the System Locale

System-wide locale settings are stored in the /etc/locale.conf file, which is read at early boot by the systemd daemon. The locale settings configured in /etc/locale.conf are inherited by every service or user, unless individual programs or individual users override them.

The basic file format of /etc/locale.conf is a newline-separated list of variable assignments. For example, German locale with English messages in /etc/locale.conf looks as follows:


Here, the LC_MESSAGES option determines the locale used for diagnostic messages written to the standard error output. To further specify locale settings in /etc/locale.conf, you can use several other options, the most relevant are summarized in Table 2.1, “Options configurable in /etc/locale.conf”. See the locale(7) manual page for detailed information on these options. Note that the LC_ALL option, which represents all possible options, should not be configured in /etc/locale.conf.

Table 2.1. Options configurable in /etc/locale.conf


Provides a default value for the system locale.


Changes the behavior of functions which compare strings in the local alphabet.


Changes the behavior of the character handling and classification functions and the multibyte character functions.


Describes the way numbers are usually printed, with details such as decimal point versus decimal comma.


Changes the display of the current time, 24-hour versus 12-hour clock.


Determines the locale used for diagnostic messages written to the standard error output.

2.1.1. Displaying the Current Status

The localectl command can be used to query and change the system locale and keyboard layout settings. To show the current settings, use the status option:

localectl status

Example 2.1. Displaying the Current Status

The output of the previous command lists the currently set locale, keyboard layout configured for the console and for the X11 window system.

~]$ localectl status
  System Locale: LANG=en_US.UTF-8
    VC Keymap: us
   X11 Layout: n/a

2.1.2. Listing Available Locales

To list all locales available for your system, type:

localectl list-locales

Example 2.2. Listing Locales

Imagine you want to select a specific English locale, but you are not sure if it is available on the system. You can check that by listing all English locales with the following command:

~]$ localectl list-locales | grep en_

output truncated

2.1.3. Setting the Locale

To set the default system locale, use the following command as root:

localectl set-locale LANG=locale

Replace locale with the locale name, found with the localectl list-locales command. The above syntax can also be used to configure parameters from Table 2.1, “Options configurable in /etc/locale.conf”.

Example 2.3. Changing the Default Locale

For example, if you want to set British English as your default locale, first find the name of this locale by using list-locales. Then, as root, type the command in the following form:

~]# localectl set-locale LANG=en_GB.utf8

2.1.4. Making System Locale Settings Permanent when Installing with Kickstart

When Red Hat Enterprise Linux is installed with the Red Hat Kickstart installation method, setting of the system locales might not be persistent after an upgrade of the operating system.

When the %packages section of the Kickstart file includes the --instLang option, the _install_langs RPM macro is set to the particular value for this installation, and the set of installed locales is adjusted accordingly. However, this adjustment affects only this installation, not subsequent upgrades. If an upgrade reinstalls the glibc package, the entire set of locales is upgraded instead of only the locales you requested during the installation.

To avoid this, make the choice of locales permanent. You have these options:

Setting RPM macros during the Kickstart installation

  1. Modify the %post section of the Kickstart file:

    echo "%_install_langs $LANG" > /etc/rpm/macros.language-conf
    yum-config-manager --setopt=override_install_langs=$LANG --save
  2. Modify the %packages section of the Kickstart file:


Setting RPM macros globally

  1. Create the RPM configuration file at /etc/rpm/macros.language-conf with the following contents:

    %_install_langs LANG

    LANG is the value of the instLang option.

  2. Update the /etc/yum.conf file with:


2.2. Changing the Keyboard Layout

The keyboard layout settings enable the user to control the layout used on the text console and graphical user interfaces.

2.2.1. Displaying the Current Settings

As mentioned before, you can check your current keyboard layout configuration with the following command:

localectl status

Example 2.4. Displaying the Keyboard Settings

In the following output, you can see the keyboard layout configured for the virtual console and for the X11 window system.

~]$ localectl status
  System Locale: LANG=en_US.utf8
    VC Keymap: us
   X11 Layout: us

2.2.2. Listing Available Keymaps

To list all available keyboard layouts that can be configured on your system, type:

localectl list-keymaps

Example 2.5. Searching for a Particular Keymap

You can use grep to search the output of the previous command for a specific keymap name. There are often multiple keymaps compatible with your currently set locale. For example, to find available Czech keyboard layouts, type:

~]$ localectl list-keymaps | grep cz

2.2.3. Setting the Keymap

To set the default keyboard layout for your system, use the following command as root:

localectl set-keymap map

Replace map with the name of the keymap taken from the output of the localectl list-keymaps command. Unless the --no-convert option is passed, the selected setting is also applied to the default keyboard mapping of the X11 window system, after converting it to the closest matching X11 keyboard mapping. This also applies in reverse, you can specify both keymaps with the following command as root:

localectl set-x11-keymap map

If you want your X11 layout to differ from the console layout, use the --no-convert option.

localectl --no-convert set-x11-keymap map

With this option, the X11 keymap is specified without changing the previous console layout setting.

Example 2.6. Setting the X11 Keymap Separately

Imagine you want to use German keyboard layout in the graphical interface, but for console operations you want to retain the US keymap. To do so, type as root:

~]# localectl --no-convert set-x11-keymap de

Then you can verify if your setting was successful by checking the current status:

~]$ localectl status
  System Locale: LANG=de_DE.UTF-8
    VC Keymap: us
   X11 Layout: de

Apart from keyboard layout (map), three other options can be specified:

localectl set-x11-keymap map model variant options

Replace model with the keyboard model name, variant and options with keyboard variant and option components, which can be used to enhance the keyboard behavior. These options are not set by default. For more information on X11 Model, X11 Variant, and X11 Options see the kbd(4) man page.

2.3. Additional Resources

For more information on how to configure the keyboard layout on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, see the resources listed below:

Installed Documentation

  • localectl(1) — The manual page for the localectl command line utility documents how to use this tool to configure the system locale and keyboard layout.
  • loadkeys(1) — The manual page for the loadkeys command provides more information on how to use this tool to change the keyboard layout in a virtual console.

See Also

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