I would like to disable the Ctrl-Alt-Backspace combination using a command line tool, without root priviliges.

I know I can use setxkbmap to enable “zapping” with the option terminate:ctrl_alt_bksp. Further, setxkbmap -option [naming no option] removes all options. Is there a way to unset only one option?

  • Maybe this will help. Sep 14, 2015 at 10:47
  • 1
    setxkbmap -option -option $(setxkbmap -query | sed -n '/options:\s*\|terminate:[^,]*/s///gp')
    – Costas
    Sep 14, 2015 at 11:15
  • 1
    @don_crissti I hope that there is more correct decision than my crutch…
    – Costas
    Sep 14, 2015 at 13:59
  • 2
    @Costas - alas, there is no straightforward way, setxkbmap -option -option new:options is the easiest way. Sep 14, 2015 at 14:04

4 Answers 4


A little bit crutched: remove all options using -option with an empty argument first, then set same options with terminate excluded from the list:

setxkbmap -option -option $(setxkbmap -query |
    sed -n 's/options:\s*\(terminate:[^:]*,\)\?\|,terminate:[^,]*//gp')
  • To be clear, I was looking for something more straightforward — like you said yourself. It really seems there should be an option to do that, but if there isn't, this is The Answer.
    – xebtl
    Sep 15, 2015 at 7:03

From my experience (limited) what worked best was using:

setxkbmap -query

And that prints out your current settings ( setxkbmap -print is another alternative to show your current keyboard settings) Then delete all the options by using the -option without any arguments:

setxkbmap -option

Then reintroduce the new options one at time:

setxkbmap -option key:key_replacement

Easy way:

setxkbmap -option
setxkbmap -option 'terminate:ctrl_alt_bksp'

Here's a more general script, based on the accepted answer; you can pass patterns, as in unsetxkbmap-option 'terminate:.* or, to undo -option ctrl:swapcaps but preview results: unsetxkbmap-option -n '.*swap.*'

!/bin/sh -eu
while test $# -gt 0; do case "$1" in
--dry-run|-n) shift; DRY=y ;;
--) shift; break ;;
-*) echo "Unknown: $1"; exit 1 ;;
*) break ;;
esac; done
opts=$(setxkbmap -query |
 perl -wlnE 'if (/^options:\s*/gc) { ($& =~ /'^"$1"'$/ or print "-option $& ") while /[^,]+/g }'
printf '%s\n' "$opts"
test -z "$DRY" && setxkbmap -option $opts

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