I am using two different keyboard layouts (depending on the computer I use) on the same server (one being AZERTY, the other QWERTY).

I would like to have "conditional" mapping options in my .vimrc file, depending on my layout, something like :

if (keyboard_layout == QWERTY)
    nnoremap : ;
    nnoremap ; :
elseif (keyboard_layout == AZERTY)
    inoremap :w <Esc>:w<Return>

Is it possible ? Or is there a "workaround" not too heavy ?

(sorry for the syntax, I haven't coded much .vimrc files yet)


User @statox gave a very complete answer based on another question asked, I could not test it because I am not 'root' user on the server I'm working on.

I found another way through defining a function, that I posted as answer here.

  • 3
    Depending on your system you probably have an environment variable or a configuration file which contains your current layout. You could read it from your .vimrc and create a condition on it. The problem is that it might be a problem to make this code portable since (as far as I know) not all the distributions keep this information in the same place.
    – statox
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 15:27
  • 1
    For the users coming to this question I think OP solved his problem by asking this other question
    – statox
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 11:40
  • I tried to, but in the end it didn't solve my problem : the $LANG variable does not contain the keyboard layout. In the end I built a function I have to call if I want to change my mappings.
    – Feffe
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 12:53
  • What system do you use? Sometimes it is in a configuration file instead of a variable.
    – statox
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 12:55
  • @statox : I use a CentOS Linux or a MacOS X, but I always ssh to the server on which I'm working
    – Feffe
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 12:55

2 Answers 2


What I would recommend is the following:

  • First on your local machine set an environment variable manually containing your layout:

    export LAYOUT=AZERTY
  • Then configure ssh to receive this environment variable (Thanks to this question ):

    To do so use the ~/.ssh/config file and the SendEnv command. A very basic example would be:

    Host server
        HostName dev.example.com
        SendEnc LAYOUT

    you can then ssh to your server with ssh server. (There a lot of documentation of ssh config, you can do a lot of stuff with that).

  • You also have to configure the server to accept this new variable: In /etc/ssh/sshd_config add the following line (as root):

    AcceptEnv LAYOUT
  • Finnaly on the server side you can use the answer to this question to read your variable and make your mappings accordingly:

    if $LAYOUT == 'AZERTY'
  • Thanks for the detailed proposition -- one problem though : I am not (and will never be) root on the server I'm using. Hence I wrote a function in my .vimrc Kbdmodes(lang), where 'lang' can be 'qwerty', 'azerty'. My problem is now to call it "automatically" when vim starts... I'll probably ask a new question if I can't figure it out.
    – Feffe
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 13:18

I did not use any "environment" variable, but I coded a function that I call in the .vimrc file :

" The function in my .vimrc file :
function! Kbdmodes(lang)
   if a:lang=='en'
      imap <akey> <anotherkey>
   elseif a:lang=='fr'
      imap <yetanotherkey> <iamthefourthkey>

let lang='en'
call Kbdmodes(lang)

So far it seems to work. By default, upon starting, vim loads my 'qwerty' (english) bindings ; then if I do :call Kbdmodes('fr') in normal mode, it switches the bindings to my 'azerty' (french) ones.

I hope this can be useful to anybody !

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