Hey world this is my first post of the year, I hope I will break my record of 2 posts for the last year.

Going back to the first days of my current laptop (it is still alive!), I found a post to automatically activate an external screen when plugging it.

This script works only for a fixed output, in this case the output VGA1.

As I use my VGA or my HDMI port depending on what I find on my desk, I want the script to recognize the relevant output when I plug an external screen.

Let's check the output of xrandr --query in each case.

When an external screen is connected and configured (here using the HDMI port), xrandr says connected and shows the active mode:

HDMI1 connected 1920x1080+0+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 598mm x 336mm

When the external screen is connected but not configured (it has just been plugged), xrandr does not show any active mode:

HDMI1 connected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)

In the last case we've just unplugged the screen, xrandr still shows the configured mode for the output:

HDMI1 disconnected 1920x1080+0+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 0mm x 0mm

Using the last two statements, we can update the script to recognize the modified output and take action accordingly:


set -o pipefail

export DISPLAY=:0.0
export XAUTHORITY=/home/foobar/.Xauthority

function connect(){
   logger -t udev "$1 connected"
   xrandr --output $1 --auto --right-of LVDS1

function disconnect(){
   logger -t udev "$1 disconnected"
   xrandr --output $1 --off

query=$(xrandr --query)
connected_output=$(echo "${query}" | egrep "^[A-Z0-1]+ connected \(" | awk -F' ' '{print $1}')
if [[ $? == 0 ]]; then
   connect $connected_output
   disconnected_output=$(echo "${query}" | egrep "^[A-Z0-1]+ disconnected [0-9]+x[0-9]+\+[0-9]+\+[0-9]+" | awk -F' ' '{print $1}')
   if [[ $? == 0 ]]; then
      disconnect $disconnected_output


  • set -o pipefail prevents a piped command to squeeze the return code of the previous commands (if it's a non-zero return code). It's useful when we use awk after the egrep and want to use the return code of the latter.
  • I've replaced echo "$1 connected" with logger to log relevant messages using the syslog/journal socket of my system.