I have a script that remaps escape to caps lock. I normally call the script manually with

xmodmap /home/myusername/.Xmodmap;

.Xmodmap is a file that contains:

remove Lock = Caps_Lock
keysym Escape = Caps_Lock
keysym Caps_Lock = Escape
add Lock = Caps_Lock

I want this command to run at boot. What I did is go to /etc/systemd/system and create a file called "startup.service" with this contents:

Description=Startup Applications



.qs is a script with -rwxr-xr-x permissions with contents:

/usr/bin/xmodmap /home/myusername/.Xmodmap; 
rm /home/myusername/stop_time; 
date +%D' '%T > /home/myusername/stop_time

I enable the command by typing systemctl enable startup (not startup.service).

Here's the funny thing. The second and third command work fine on a new boot, the first one does not. It seems to execute the command or skip it somehow. The command works fine when executed in a terminal window. What am I missing here?


xmodmap operates on a running Xserver. It's not something you'd run at system boot; it's something you'd run after graphical login, generally as part of a user's initialization script.

Theoretically you might run it through systemd to tweak the keymap on the display manager's Xserver, using After=display-manager.service in your .service file. This will ensure systemd doesn't run it before the graphical login is available. This won't affect a Wayland-based display manager, any Wayland sessions, or a user session that uses a fresh Xserver process, so you probably want to rerun it during user initialization anyway.

(Note the XKB option caps:swapescape does something similar to what your .Xmodmap does, and will function properly in Wayland and other libinput-aware contexts that lack an Xserver for xmodmap to operate on. xmodmap is essentially deprecated, and you should really avoid using it where possible.)

  • And to give a rationale why the proper place is to run it after graphical login: Different users may prefer different keymaps. – dirkt Dec 8 '17 at 10:50

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