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Media and volume keys in i3

28 April 2015 (2 minute read)

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linux i3 technology

As is the case with many people, all music I listen to on my PC these days plays from the web through a browser. I’m a heavy user of Google Play Music and SoundCloud, and using Chrome to handle everything means playlists and libraries (and the way I use them through extensions) sync up properly everywhere I need them.

On OS X I use BearededSpice to map the keyboard media controls to browser-based music-players, and the volume keys adjusted the system as they should. Using i3 (and other lightweight window managers) can make you realise what you take for granted when using more fully-fledged arrangements, but it doesn’t take long to achieve the same functionality on such systems.

A quick search revealed keysocket - a Chrome extension that listens out for the hardware media keys and is able to interact with a large list of supported music websites. In order to get the volume controls working, I needed to map i3 through to alsa, and this turned out to be pretty straight-forward too. It only required the addition of three lines to my i3 config to handle the volume-up, volume-down, and mute keys:

bindsym XF86AudioRaiseVolume exec amixer -q set Master 4%+ unmute
bindsym XF86AudioLowerVolume exec amixer -q set Master 4%- unmute
bindsym XF86AudioMute exec amixer -q set Master toggle

And for fun added the block below to ~/.i3status.conf to get the volume displayed on the status bar:

volume master {
    format = "♪ %volume "
    device = "default"
    mixer = "Master"
    mixer_idx = 0
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