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Is there a way to set Emacs-like keyboard shortcuts (at least the subset mentioned below) for the whole OS? This is possible in some apps such as the terminal, Emacs (go figure :) and additionally through special plugins in some other apps (Eclipse), but I got so used to C-f-ing through text and never having to jump to arrows that I'd like to be able to do this system-wide so that I can do it whenever I'm typing - e.g. searching for songs in Rhythmbox, typing stuff into the dash or the HUD, writing mails in Thunderbird or Gmail... The combos I'm most interested in are:

  • C-f - forward
  • C-b - backwards
  • C-a - home
  • C-e - end
  • C-d - delete
  • C-k - delete line

(note for non-emacs users - C means Ctrl)

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

I managed to solve the problem by using AutoKey, as recommended in this answer. Some of my phrases are:

content                     |   hotkey             |   description
---------------------------------------------------------------
<ctrl>+f                    |   <ctrl>+<alt>+f     | replace the find operation
<home>                      |   <ctrl>+a           | begining of line
<end>                       |   <ctrl>+e           | end of line
<left>                      |   <ctrl>+b           | back one letter
<right>                     |   <ctrl>+f           | forward one letter
<delete>                    |   <ctrl>+d           | delete one letter
<home><shift>+<end><delete> |   <ctrl>+k           | kill line

(yeah, the kill line combo was nasty to find :)

You could go on replacing stuff, but I don't want the mental remap to grow to large (e.g. ctrl+n doesn't open a new window, but goes to next line). All in all AutoKey is a cool app!

Anyway, now I've got the emacs ergonomy of never having to leave the "letter keys" throughout Ubuntu - in every text box I am editing. Yeiii!

Update: as I got deeper into playing with AutoKey to fine-tune everything, I made quite some changes. You can see my complete AutoKey Ubuntu-Emacs configuration (and install it) in my dotfiles git repo.

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Based on: http://superuser.com/a/516847/205010

  1. Install gnome-tweak-tool: sudo apt-get install gnome-tweak-tool

  2. Open it: gnome-tweak-tool

  3. Go to Keyboard and Mouse and change Key Theme to Emacs

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this is pretty cool, but lots of stuff doesn't work, i.e. C-b, C-k etc. the solution is probably pulling everything into emacs, i.e. browser, email etc. rather than trying to push the key bindings out beyond emacs – bph Feb 18 at 9:11
    
Where does it not working? In my case it works most of the time pretty well. – eyalev Feb 21 at 9:48
    
It seems that if an app implements an equivalent shortcut then that takes precedence. Which is awkward – bph Feb 21 at 19:34
    
I don't think it happens for all apps. I encountered in Chrome a few times that the global Emacs shortcuts took precedence over the specific web app shortcuts. – eyalev Feb 22 at 10:21
    
my test case was using yahoo mail and gmail in a firefox browser. in both cases C-a C-e C-f C-p C-n worked as expected, but C-b toggled bold font, and C-k brought up a link dialog. So for my particular application it is a bit hit and miss - i'll have to give chrome a try and see if its any different – bph Feb 22 at 11:12

There is another solution not involving third-party apps posted here emacs keybindings in ubuntu 12.04

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Using this method will not work in applications such as Thunderbird, where Ctrl+F will be interpreted as "Find String" rather than "Move Cursor Forward". – holocronweaver Jan 10 '14 at 23:45
    
@holocronweaver true indeed, I have given up on getting Emacs keys working in Thunderbird sadly, but most of the other inputs (notably in Chrome) almost work. I can't help but feel that the AutoKey solution is road to never ending fiddling and frustration too :) That said have you tried the solution proposed by kermit666 and if so - did it work for you? – dolzenko Jan 12 '14 at 22:20
    
After a bit of editing to make it suit my tastes, the AutoKey solution has worked fairly well in Firefox and Thunderbird on Ubuntu 14.04. Still more testing to do. – holocronweaver Jan 13 '14 at 2:55

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